Europe

Mental health absences drive UK sick leave costs up 31 per cent

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Poor mental health was the leading cause of British workers taking off work for illness this year, costing employers an estimated £43 billion (S$78 billion).

That’s according to data from GoodShape, which manages workplace absences for companies and has a database of 750,000 employee records.

GoodShape estimated that the cost of sick leave to employers rose by 31 per cent from before the pandemic, not accounting for the cost of hiring and training replacement staff.

Mental ill health accounted for 19 per cent of all lost working time in Britain up to Nov 28, slightly more than confirmed cases of Covid-19.

That was the case across every industry except transport and logistics, consumer and retail, and workplace services.

GoodShape combined its data with official population and wage statistics to extrapolate nationwide figures, estimating that the total number of working days lost through absence increased to 319 million this year, compared with 250 million in 2019.

That meant days lost to mental health absences also rose, by 5 per cent overall, compared to before the pandemic.

The findings come as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant means British workers face the prospect of a renewed period of working from home.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked Britons to work from home starting today if possible as part of a new round of restrictions.

The GoodShape data also show that more than half of workers who took two or more mental health-related absences went on to leave their jobs.

Research into working from home and mental health, published in July by NatCen, Britain’s largest social research foundation, found that remote workers who live alone reported significant increases in mental distress at the start of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has meant that across all industries, more is being expected of people and budgets,” said Mr Alun Baker, GoodShape’s chief executive. “The good news, though, is that the business community is realising that performance is inextricably linked with well-being and insight.”

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