Employees who work at larger organisations are significantly more likely to have a long-term sickness absence (an absence of four weeks or more) than those who work at smaller businesses, figures reveal. Furthermore, as people get older, their likelihood of having at least one bout of long-term sickness absence increases.
According to government data, workers employed at larger organisations are 1.5 times more likely than their counterparts at smaller businesses to have long-term sickness absence. The same figures also show people aged 55-64 are more than three times more likely to have at least one episode of long-term sickness absence, compared to their younger counterparts (aged under 25).
Length of absence affects likelihood of returning to work
The data also shows that the longer a period of sickness absence lasts, the greater chance an individual does not return to work and ultimately leaves their job. For example, employees who had sickness absences that lasted more than one year, were eight times more likely to leave their jobs than those with four-week sickness absences.
Individuals who had a sickness absence that lasted six months or less were most likely to return to work (93%) afterwards.
Overall, more than 100,000 employees leave their jobs following a long-term sickness absence every year.
Long-term sickness absence varies by occupation
Care home workers, nursery workers and other care, leisure and service occupations are most likely to have a period of long-term sickness absence. Of the 2,305,000 employees working across this industry covered by the data, 145,000 (6.3%) had a sickness absence.
Factory workers, process, plant and machine operatives were the next group most likely to have a long-term sickness absence at 5.7%. Cleaners, construction workers, fishers and other elementary occupations were third most likely at 4.9%.
Towards the other end of the spectrum are managers, directors and senior officials (3.8%); plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades workers (3.8%); and teachers, doctors and other professional occupations (3.9%).
Access to SSP, OH services also varies
Furthermore, whether an employee receives above the statutory minimum sick pay and/or has access to occupational health (OH) services also depends on their employer and type of work. Individuals in permanent, full-time, skilled occupations working for larger employers are the most likely to have access to OH services and receive above the statutory minimum sick pay (currently £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks).
Being away from work due to a long-term sickness absence is a stressful experience for employees. Not only are they experiencing poor health, there is also often the feeling that they are letting their colleagues down, which compounds the issue.
At face value, these government figures could lead one to dismiss the value of Group Income Protection because, on first read, it appears that there is a very large percentage of employees who return to work. However, look deeper and the truth is disturbing – while 91% returned to work, only 86% went back to their old employer, implying that they could not perform their main duties, which is a key benefit of GIP policies.
Stephen joined Premier Choice in 2006 as a Group Risk consultant and became Head of Group Risk in June 2013. In December 2017, Stephen also took over responsibility for the Protection division within Premier Choice and works to grow this in the same way he has the Group Risk division. Protection is a specialist area and fits well with his experience and expertise in the group risk market.