1 in 4 employers have seen an increase in staff being off sick

A new survey from Acas has found that 1 in 4 employers have seen an increase in staff being off sick compared to a year ago.

Acas commissioned YouGov to ask employers at the end of August if they had seen any changes to the number of employees being off sick compared to 12 months ago.

The poll found that:

  • 26% of employers had seen an increase in sickness absence
  • almost 1 in 10 (9%) had seen a decrease
  • over half (59%) said that the number of staff being off sick had roughly stayed the same
  • 6% did not know or were not sure

Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said:

"It is clear from our poll that 1 in 4 employers have seen an increase in staff absences compared to a year ago.

"Bosses that handle sickness absences effectively can help to reduce it, prevent any unnecessary disputes at work and stay within the law.

"Acas has advice and training for businesses on how to prevent sickness absences and address the causes."

Acas advice is that businesses that effectively address sickness can:

  • improve staff morale and wellbeing
  • boost productivity
  • reduce absence levels
  • save money

Steps that can help to reduce sickness absence include:

  • having an absence policy that is clear on what is expected of managers and their staff if they need time off work
  • creating a culture at work where staff feel supported and comfortable raising problems that they trust will be taken seriously 
  • dealing with the causes of absence such as work-related stress or workers struggling to balance work and caring responsibilities

Acas advises that a good work-life balance can lead to lower levels of sickness absence. To help staff, employers should:

  • encourage staff to speak up if they feel they're under too much pressure at work
  • train managers to spot signs of a poor work-life balance
  • offer flexible working where possible
  • encourage breaks from work, including during the day and making sure employees take holidays
  • regularly review workloads
  • lead by example – if managers and senior leaders have a good work-life balance, this will create a culture for employees to follow

Find out more about reducing sickness absence

Media enquiries

Contact the Acas press office

Background notes

1. Acas runs training courses for employers on managing absence at work.

2. Acas commissioned YouGov to poll senior decision makers in a representative sample of British businesses. The survey was carried out online and the total sample size was 1058 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21 to 27 August 2023. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc and have been weighted and are representative of British business size.

3. Participants were asked: Compared to 12 months ago (August 2022), have you seen the number of staff being off sick increase, decrease, or is it roughly the same?

The results were:

  • Significant increase: 7%
  • Slight increase: 20%
  • Roughly the same: 59%
  • Slight decrease: 8%
  • Significant decrease: 1%
  • Do not know or not sure: 6%
  • Net increase: 26%
  • Net decrease: 9%