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The cost of employee sickness absence and lost productivity

28 March 2024 3 min read

Discussing sickness absence reasons in the workplace

The new 2024 Mind Health Report by AXA has highlighted some worrying statistics when it comes to the rising cost of sickness absence to businesses and the economy – due in large part to mental health issues experienced by the global workforce.

Last year, AXA UK estimated that burnout, mental ill health and work-related stress would cost the UK economy £28bn. In fact, lost productivity due to mental health conditions cost UK organisations £57.4bn in 2023, more than double the estimate.

In addition, £26bn was lost from workers taking sick days, and around £18bn was lost from workers choosing to leave their jobs altogether.

Sickness absence and mental health in the workplace

The report by AXA split mental health at work into four categories: flourishing, getting by, languishing, and struggling.

Of those surveyed, 24% said they were flourishing at work, 33% are getting by, 28% are languishing, and 15% reported to be struggling.

Young people aged 18-24 years old appear to be one of the groups suffering the most, with 39% of this demographic saying they are struggling due to experiencing severe forms of stress, anxiety and depression.

The wider impact of mental health conditions is having an impact on global sickness absence, as 23% of employees have taken at least one period of sick leave due to their mental health over the last 12 months. That number rises to 38% for people aged 18-24 years old.

sickness absence at work is prevalent amongst younger people

The business cost of sickness absence

The numbers behind the cost of sickness absence for businesses are startling. And the conversations surrounding increasing mental health issues amongst the workforce – and the global population generally – continue to swirl. But what is the true cost of sickness absence for employers?

It is more than just the lost working hours when an employee takes a day off work due to sickness. There are also considerations around resourcing, and how that employee’s tasks are managed in their absence. That puts a strain on people managers in particular, who are the ones tasked with supporting about their team’s wellbeing, performance and engagement, as well as managing absence when it occurs.

That means having conversations with the individual about the reasons for their absence, recording the absence, and helping to facilitate that person’s return to work, however that process may look. They are also responsible for juggling the projects and tasks of those around them, and arranging cover if needed, to make sure that everything stays on track.

In both large and small organisations, all of that has an added cost to it. And if absenteeism is prevalent in the workplace, this is a recurring issue that continues to mount and absorb valuable time and cost that businesses have not necessarily accounted for in the first place.

To find out more about the hidden costs of sickness absence, and discover ways in which organisations like yours can tackle it and support the wellbeing of your employees, download our free report below.

Want more insights like this? Download our free report

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Georgina at edays
March 28, 2024

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.