Stat of the day: Long-term sickness absence in the UK

By Angela Matthews

On Friday last week, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released statistics from the Labour Force Survey on long-term sickness absence in Great Britain and the UK between October 2010 and September 2013. Some key findings are as follows:

(Note: “Long-term” sickness absence is defined as being more than four weeks.)

General In Great Britain there were 960,000 sickness absences between October 2010 and September 2013.
Disability 52 per cent of long-term absentees had a disability. The data is not broken down by type of disability.
Number of health conditions Absentees who do not have a long-term health condition had the largest long-term absence percentage – 38 per cent. 34 per cent of absentees had two long-term health conditions, and 29 per cent had one long-term health condition.
Type of health conditions 33 per cent of long-term absentees were on long-term sickness absence due to musculoskeletal conditions; 20 per cent due to mental health conditions; and further 48 per cent had other conditions which are not specified (and this also includes the 2 per cent of absentees who did not indicate whether or not they had a disability or health condition).
Age The age groups with the largest amount of sickness absentees in the UK overall were 40-49 (25 per cent) and 50-64 (42 per cent). The age group with the lowest amount of absentees was 65 and over (3 per cent).
Region The north-west and south-east regions had the highest amount of long-term absentees – both 12 per cent. This amounts to 120,000 absences for each of these two regions.
Industry The highest number of long-term absentees in the UK work in public administration, education or health (41 per cent) and in distribution, hotels, or restaurants (17 per cent). The lowest number work in the energy and water sector (2 per cent).

The DWP do warn in this analysis that someone’s health condition may not necessarily be the cause of their absence – and this is important to remember. In addition, the way an organisation approaches managing absences and the quality of the adjustments procedure(s) that they have in place can (but not always) be crucial to whether an employee can be at work or not. Flexibility (such as, for example, considering adjusted hours, working from home, or adjusted duties) can also sometimes be a huge contributor to someone continuing to work.

You can find the data here (Excel spreadsheet) (Link:

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