Sick days taken by workers in Britain are at their lowest levels since records began almost 25 years ago...

...according to recent findings released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).


The average worker was absent from work due to illness and injury for 4.3 days in 2016 compared to 7.2 days in 1993.

This equates to a total of 137 million working days across the year.

Minor illnesses such as coughs and colds accounted for 34 million sick days in 2016, which is almost a quarter of the total. In addition, musculoskeletal problems including back pain and neck and upper limb problems made up 22.4% of days lost to sickness, and mental health issues including stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 11.5%.

In the late 1990s, the total number of work days lost to sickness and injury peaked at 185 million but fell to 132m in 2013 before increasing again in 2014 and 2015. This rise was largely due to a steep increase in the working population.

Reaction to the Findings

ONS statistician Brendan Freeman commented:

“Since 2003, there has been a fairly steady decline in the number of working days lost to sickness, especially during the economic downturn."

In addition, the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said the findings showed that “it is a myth that UK workers are always throwing sickies. We are really a nation of mucus troopers, with people more likely to go to work when ill than stay at home when well. Sickness absence rates have fallen steadily over the past decade, and let’s not forget that working people put in billions of pounds’ worth of unpaid overtime each year.”