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Employee sick leave 'at record low'

18 Jun 2014

A survey by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF and Jelf Benefits UK has found that the number of working days lost to sick leave has reached a record low.

The study of 330 manufacturing firms over the past two years showed overall levels of absence fell to 2.1%, equal to 4.9 days per worker per year.

The EEF says that the drop may reflect the fact that short term absence is better managed. Almost half of the employers surveyed pay for medical interventions, and 68% offer occupational health services as a benefit for all staff. Furthermore, 46% of businesses surveyed said they would be willing to fund interventions if they received tax relief from the Government via the Health and Work Service, due to launch this Autumn.

However, employers did report a rise in workers with mental health problems, and almost two fifths of companies say long term absence has increased in the last two years.

Professor Sayeed Khan, chief medical adviser at the EEF, said: "Driving down absence rates, helping more employees return to work earlier and, encouraging their wellbeing is critical for our economy. But, despite employers increasing investment in managing sickness absence and, providing their employees with more health related benefits, the improvement in overall absence rates has more or less now plateaued."

According to the survey, 40% of employees believe the Government’s flagship ‘fit note’ concept, introduced in 2010, is still failing to return employees to work earlier, with 45% blaming poor quality advice from GPs as the main problem.