Britons taking the day off work cost the economy £18bn every year

Jasper Jolly
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The rate of days off from flu remained broadly the same (Source: Getty)

People taking days off work cost the UK economy billions every year, with the toll to rise considerably over the next decade, a new study has found.

Absences from work account for £18bn in lost productivity every year, according to the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) – a figure which could swell to £26bn by 2030.

Britons are also taking more days off work since 2011, reversing the declining trend from 1993 until that point.

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During the same period, unemployment peaked in late 2011 at 8.6 per cent, as the effects of the financial crisis reached their peak – and the report points to a 19 per cent rise in part-time working since 2009.

The increase in absence have been driven by a 71.9 per cent surge in mental health issues, with people in their 30s hit the hardest. A separate survey by Legal and General found less than one in 10 employees would feel comfortable discussing their mental health with a manager.

The report links mental health issues to the demands of bringing up a family, with rises during the summer and Christmas holidays.

Meanwhile the ageing population could also be contributing to the rise, as older employees take significantly more time off work. Musculoskeletal issues – such as the perennial bad back – are the single biggest reason for people to take time off work, the report finds, with a 25 per cent increase in the number of days taken off to recover from surgery.

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However, there has been no change to the number of people taking a day off because of common ailments such as a cold or flu.

David Hope, chief executive of FirstCare, which commissioned the study and contributed data, said: “A reduction of 21.2 per cent to the level of absence in the UK, the average that organisations included in this report have achieved, would result in nearly £4bn worth of productivity gains to the UK economy.”

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