Sick days fell to all-time record low in 2020

The ONS has said that Covid-19 may have led to additional sickness absence, with coronavirus accounting for 14% of the total figure, but measures such as furlough, shielding, social distancing and home working have helped reduce other causes.

The sickness absence rate in the UK workforce has fallen to its lowest level on record, the latest figures reveal.

This could be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, which has meant more people have been working from home, shielding on furlough.

Around 118 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in 2020, equating to 3.6 days per worker. Though, due to a large number of the workforce being on furlough in 2020, figures on days lost might not be comparable to previous and future years.

The majority of days lost were by workers in professional occupations. The occupation group with the least days lost was the administrative and secretarial occupation group.

Female workers took more sick days than male workers in 2020.

The main reason for sickness absence in 2020 was minor illness, including coughs and colds.

Influenza rates are also at a record low. In the seven weeks between the first week of January and the last week of February, not a single case of influenza was detected by public health officials in England.

This has been attributed by public health officials to a change in behaviour, including “social distancing, face coverings and handwashing, as well as the reduction in international travel,” and a record uptake of the influenza vaccine.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, head of flu at Public Health England (PHE), told The Independent: “This season’s immunisation programme is on track to be the most successful ever, with the highest levels of vaccine uptake recorded for those 65 years and over, 2- and 3-year-olds and healthcare workers.”

Christina Pagel, a professor of operational research at University College London also attributed this to an increase in home working.

She said it was necessary to change the workplace attitude — “especially in Britain” — that “if you’re sick, you still go in to work.”

“We’ve shown that a lot of people can work remotely,” she said.

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