Blog, news & updates

Does the UK have a sick-note culture?

Does the UK have a sick-note culture?

The Prime Minister was reported on Friday 19 April as saying the UK has a "sick-note culture", suggesting that working individuals are taking sick leave when they’re actually fit for work. 

While there's some debate surrounding the PM's comments and suggested actions, it begs the question: is there any evidence to support this claim? 

There's no doubt that employee absenteeism is rising. In fact, according to a report by CIPD, the average rate of employee absence now stands at 7.8 days per employee per year. This is a significant increase compared to five years ago where the statistic stood at 5.8 days per employee per year. 

However, there is very little evidence to suggest that those taking sick leave are actually fit for work. 

One of the most logical explanations for the rising cases of absenteeism is the pandemic. Since the pandemic, the number of those claiming disability benefit has increased by 850,000, half of whom are suffering either from anxiety or depression. 

And this is no surprise. Rising costs, benefits cuts/caps, and long waiting lists for healthcare support has undoubtedly left many in a difficult position and in need of support. 

Another key point to consider is that the negative stigma surrounding mental wellbeing is fading. A survey by Mind found that 49% of people are comfortable speaking in some way about their mental health, compared to 29% a decade ago. This demonstrates that those who need support for their mental wellbeing are more likely to seek it now. 

Ultimately, saying the UK has a “sick-note culture” is a stretch at best. The rise in absenteeism is certainly an issue, but there are more effective ways to reduce the numbers than limiting support for the people who need it. 

Some ways your business can reduce absenteeism include: 

  • Reward good attendance 
  • Create clear absence policies 
  • Be supportive and understanding of absent staff 
  • Build a supportive and inclusive workplace culture 
  • Get regular feedback from staff 

Here at iHasco, we offer a free guide on managing short-term sickness absence that covers how to best reduce absenteeism and what processes you should follow. 

We also offer a range of workplace training courses that are designed to help you build a supportive workplace culture. Some of our most popular courses include: 

Why not get started with a free, no-obligation trial today?! Alternatively, you can request a bespoke quote and our experts will be in touch to discuss your training requirements.