Fact Service March 2021

Issue 9

UK absence rates drop

UK rates of absence from work through illness have dropped to their lowest level since 1995 according to the Office for National Statistics.

The UK sickness absence rate fell to 1.8% in 2020, with minor illness the main reason; this includes coughs and colds, which have been the main reason for sickness absence since the figures were first compiled. Since April 2020, Covid-19 has accounted for 14% of all sickness absences.

Women lost 2.3% of their working hours in 2020 as a result of sickness or injury, in comparison with 1.5% for men. Musculoskeletal problems were the second largest reason for absences.

However, the ONS notes that the coronavirus pandemic has affected the data in a number of ways; while it may have led to additional sickness absence, measures such as furloughing, social distancing, shielding and increased homeworking appear to have helped reduce other causes of absence, allowing a general downward trend to continue.