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Wales has highest sickness absence rates of UK nations says ONS, but differences explained by demographics

29 Apr 2022 2 minute read
Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Wales had the highest sickness absence rates in the UK in 2021, but the differences were explained by different demographics, the Office for National Statistics has said.

Sickness absence rates had decreased in 2020 due to the number of people on furlough and working at home due to the Covid pandemic, but rose again in 2021.

In 2021, workers living in Wales had the highest sickness absence rate (2.8%), while those in London had the lowest (1.7%).

“These figures can be largely explained by the differing age profiles and occupations for workers in different parts of the UK,” the ONS said.

The groups with the highest rates included women, older workers, those with long-term health conditions, part-timers and people working in caring, leisure and other service occupations.

The sickness absence rate across the UK rose to 2.2%, from a record low of 1.8% in 2020 – the highest since 2010, when it was also 2.2%. That was the equivalent of 4.6 days per worker, said the ONS.


The relaxation of coronavirus restrictions during periods of 2021 and less requirement to work from home, may have contributed to an increase in sickness absence in 2021, said the ONS.

Covid-19 accounted for nearly one in four of all sickness absence in 2021, up from 13.9% in 2020.

Tina McKenzie from the Federation of Small Businesses said: “The average cost of sickness absence, including finding cover, stands at more than £3,000 a year for small employers, equating to £5 billion across the small business community as a whole.”

She said that, with operating costs “surging”, small firms “need more financial assistance to go on doing right by their staff when they’re unwell.”

She added: “On the day that the Government has announced yet more help for big energy intensive companies, we’re asking policymakers to take forward our joint proposal with the TUC for a small business sick pay rebate which will help those who have received no help whatsoever with utility bills.

“Allowing small community businesses to recover sick pay costs will give them that much more space to invest, recruit and retain staff, spurring our economic recovery from the grass roots up.”

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The Original Mark
The Original Mark
1 year ago

This must be fake news, because yesterday the deputy editor of Conservative Home (a right wing fanzine) Henry Hill said that the UK government should stop devolved governments from collecting data, because comparisons between countries couldn’t be made. Do you think a tory would lie?

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 year ago
  1. You should treat Henry Hill with the contempt he has earned.
  2. The UK government data service is the ONS, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport, Gwent, NP10 8XG. “We” collect “their” data.
1 year ago

Wales is currently a middle to low status/income economic entity populated by highly educated, highly skilled individuals primed to cross the clawdd to earn a living, service sector workers forced into drudgery (because, hey, what else can we do?) and retirees who haven’t contributed 1p to the national economy they now benefit from. Thank goodness for the sensible families from England who settle in Wales, work and make a difference, educate their kids in concomitance with the national culture – quite a few in my area. If Wales retained half the talent that leaves for the smoggy concrete-on-Thames, we’d be… Read more »

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