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Sickness absence drops to lowest level ever recorded

Around four days were lost to sickness for each UK worker last year, according to official data.

The number of sickness days taken by workers has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1993, according to official data.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the average number of sickness days taken by UK workers has almost halved from 7.2 days in 1993 to 4.1 days in 2017.

The average number of days taken off due to illness has been falling since 1999.

The ONS also uses another measure to assess sickness absence, the so-called sickness absence rate, which is the proportion of working hours lost due to sickness.

Since the financial crash, sickness absence rates have declined by 0.5 percentage points to 1.9% in 2017.

Absence rates were higher in the public sector than in the private sector last year, standing at 1.7% for the private sector and 2.6% for the public sector.

The ONS said: “Higher sickness absence in the public sector is partly explained by the profile of the workforce: it employs more older people and women, both of whom tend to have higher rates of sickness absence; it is more likely to employ staff with a long-standing health condition who are more likely to go off sick and tends to offer more generous sick pay arrangements.”

Health workers in the public sector showed the highest rate of absence due to illness, logging a sickness absence rate of 3.3%.

“It is possible that the exposure of health workers to infections and diseases contributes to their higher sickness absence rate. Also, this industry is still largely in the public sector, which has a higher sickness absence rate,” the ONS said.

The data also found there was a rise in young workers (aged 25 to 34) who took time off due to mental health problems, with the illness rate for this category rising from 7.2% in 2009 to 9.6% in 2017.

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