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May 3, 2019

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Manufacturing: Sickness absence on the rise, according to Make UK

Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, has published its latest Absence Benchmark, the annual survey of days missed by employees due to sickness in the manufacturing industry.

The statistics gathered showed that the overall absence rate increased slightly in 2018 to 2.3%, which was up from 2.2% in the previous year.

The average number of days a year lost to sickness absence per employee also increased slightly to 5.3 days, up from five in 2017. At an average of 6.8 days, manual employees lost significantly more days to sickness absence than those in non-manual roles, who missed an average of 3.9 days a year.

The benchmark shows that the variance in days missed across sectors has widened since the last survey. The rubber, plastics & chemicals sector had the highest average number of days absent at 6.2 (up from 5.5 in 2017) and the other manufacturing sector the lowest at 4.6 days per employee in 2018.

There were differences in the number sick days taken between larger and smaller companies too. Smaller companies, with a workforce of up to 50, saw employees each miss on average 4.2 days a year (3.7 in 2017), whereas mid-size companies with 101-250 employees saw staff miss 6.3 days.

Across the UK, the East Midlands had the highest number of days lost per employee with 6.9 days whereas Wales had the lowest number at 4.4 days.

Tim Thomas, Director of Labour Market and Health and Safety Policy at Make UK said: “Manufacturers will want to look carefully at our latest absence benchmark trends and review their policies, procedures, support and wellbeing practices as a result. Manual workers continue to show a higher number of days lost than non-manual workers, with the significantly differing absence rates for these two groups of workers showing little change over the past three years.

“The challenge for manufacturers now will be to realise the productivity and workforce engagement gains in reducing the working days lost by manual workers in particular, and focus on improving their existing well-being and return-to-work practices.”

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