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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
November 21, 2008

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Absence rates still high but presenteeism is the new worry

The UK lost 5.8m working days to sickness or injury between July 2007 and June 2008, according to Labour Force Survey figures and analysis released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The 5.8 million days lost over the period accounted for 1.5 per cent of working days. Since June 2006 sickness-absence rates for all employees have remained stable at about 2.5 per cent, i.e. 2.5 per cent of employees had at least one day’s absence from work in the Survey’s reference week (usually the week before the Survey interviews).

Sickness-absence rates in the public sector remain the highest, at 2.9 per cent, compared with 2.4 per cent in the private sector. Call-centre operators have the highest sickness-absence rates, at 4.8 per cent, while transport professionals, such as train drivers, have the lowest, at 0.8 per cent.

A spokesperson for the Public and Commercial Services Union said it wanted the Government to tackle the causes of sickness absence. He told SHP: “Civil servants and public-sector workers aren’t all stuck behind desks; many work in stressful conditions, with some of the most disadvantaged in society.”

Asked if presenteeism could rise during the recession, with people fearful of losing their jobs, the spokesperson responded: “There is a risk of people coming into work and spreading sickness when they should be at home, and also coming into work and not getting better, so their period of sickness is longer.”

The Call Centre Management Association (UK) attributed the sector’s high rating to the survey’s method of data analysis. The group’s chair, Ann-Marie Stagg, said: “The call-centre industry is able to offer meaningful employment to people from all levels of society, including all age ranges, ethnic groups, and those who are less able. If you consider the personal characteristics produced from the ONS regression model used in the report then it is clear that this very diversity can raise the odds of sickness-absence occurring, and [we] believe that this is the root cause of the findings.”

The statistics are at

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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