According to HM Government’s national statistics, the average UK worker takes around four-and-a-half days of sick leave annually. The figure, which has remained steady for years, has been confirmed by various smaller-scale surveys.

Up to the tax year 2019/2020 – the latest for which full records are available – somewhat less than half of those reported sickies related to so-called ‘general illness’, making colds and flu the #1 cause of absenteeism.

But the established pattern is changing. Thanks to last year’s homeworking trend and the ready availability of flu vaccines, the workers of 2021 are less likely than their predecessors to call in sick with cold and flu symptoms. As a result, the concerns of HR departments are shifting away from ‘general illness’ and towards ‘recurring illness’, the previous runner-up in the absentee stakes.

The most significant of these recurring illnesses will be as recognisable to employers as they are to GPs. They include: diabetes and its side-effects; asthma, COPD and other breathing problems; heart attacks and high blood pressure; strokes; and (inevitably) back pain and other musculoskeletal problems.

A recent survey found that such ailments now account for 23% of sick days, with the average sufferer taking 17 days off a year. (Mental health problems were given as the third commonest reason for sick leave, accounting for an average 10 days of leave, while stress, minor injuries and sports injuries brought up the rear.)

Number-crunching on a national scale is a vexed business. However, we might conclude that, while the UK’s overall sickie quota is pretty much unchanged, it is less evenly distributed than it used to be. The consequence is that HR departments find themselves juggling responsibilities to particular employees as well as complex operational requirements. That’s not an easy task, and it is being made harder by the complexities of the Return to Work that has followed the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such considerations make a strong case for absence planning software. LeavePlanner will help you spot the unusual trends in absenteeism which may indicate a colleague in trouble or a person gaming the system. It’s also a powerful enabler of administrative tasks like management of work rotas and offsetting staffing shortfalls – both foregrounded by the pandemic and its aftermath.

Give us a call today to learn more about what LeavePlanner can do for you.

For any queries, call Steve on 01252 636 070 or email