The CIPD April 2019 report1 on Health and Wellbeing at Work analysed the causes of short term and long-term absence in the workplace.

Short Term Absence

Short term absence is defined as being off work for 4 weeks or less. The most common illnesses range are:

  • Minor Ailments – colds, flu, headache, stomach upsets
  • Musculoskeletal injuries (MSK) – back pain, neck pain

A third of the organisations CIPD interviewed include mental health as one of the top causes of absence, building on the growing trend from last year’s findings. Some organisations also revealed non-genuine ill health as a cause, such as caring responsibilities.

Long Term Absence

Long term absence is defined as being off work for longer than 4 weeks.

The report found the most common cause of long term absence is mental health. This is in line with last year’s findings, showing that there is a growing trend of employees taking long term sick leave because of poor mental health.

Stress, which is separate to mental ill health, was the second most common reason for long term absence. Stress is different than most mental health issues. Stress is a trigger – your body’s response to a threat. Mental health issues, such as anxiety, can be triggered by stressed and are long term disorders2. Sometimes presure from work can lead to burnout.

Physical ailments – MSK injuries and acute conditions – are the third and fourth most common reasons respectively.

Absences in different sectors

Both public sector and private sector organisations have reported mental health and stress as the most common reason of short term absence.

Historically, for the public sector this has always been the cause, but this is the first year where private sector is also on equal par.

The public sector and manufacturing sectors also include MSK injuries are the main reason for short term and long term absence.

Managing Absence

Nearly all organisations from the survey use a combination of practices and policies to manage sickness. Most make efforts to monitor and deter absence in their workplace. Others try and promote attendance or put in place “return to work” schemes, sometimes using occupational health services.

Line managers take primary responsibility for short term and long-term illness; however, a wider group is often brought in to consult on long term illness. Even though monitoring and managing sickness in employees is important – not only to boost productivity but promote a healthy work environment – almost a quarter of managers are not trained or provided enough support.

One of the most popular services that DocHQ provides is around sickness and absence management. Most businesses establish a simple policy to manage sick employees. If you need help, contact us today.

To read more about calculating and managing sickness, download our whitepaper here.

If you need help managing stress, read more here.

Sources: 1, 2

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