Firms under pressure as British workers take most time off sick

BRITISH workers still take more sick days than their counterparts in the rest of the world, sapping £29bn from British businesses in lost productivity, according to research by PwC.

The average number of sick days taken by employees is 9.1 per year in the UK, higher than for workers in the rest of western Europe, where 7.3 is the average, and nearly double the 4.9 days taken in the US.

In the Asia-Pacific region, workers spend only 2.2 days every year absent due to sickness, less than a quarter of the average time off in the UK.

The amount of time spent away from work with illness has risen from 8.7 days per year in 2011. Sickness makes up 90 per cent of absences in terms of days lost, with the other tenth made up of industrial action and other unplanned leave.

In terms of the cost to employers from absence, sickness accounts for even more, making up 92 per cent of the total bill for absences.

Public sector workers have the most day off, at 11.1 per year, while technology workers take far less than the average, at only 3.4 days.

Jon Andrews, human resources consulting leader for PwC, commented: “this is particularly relevant for start-ups and SMEs, where the cost of absence can be particularly crippling”. He added: “ as many people are now having to work far longer before they retire, companies are likely to see a greater level of sickness if they don’t start addressing this issue now”.