A report by the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) has revealed that the sickness absence rate hit a worrying 8 year high in Northern Ireland in 2022, which works out at around 6 days sickness absence per worker in the 12 month period. The UUEPC has worked out that this is a direct salary cost of £39 million in total. The civil service was an organisation which was particularly hard hit by sickness absences in this year.
The Sickness Absence Rate Needs To Be Addressed
The sickness absence rate in NI was worse than other parts of the UK, which is also a concern and something that certainly needs to be addressed. Senior economist Gillian Martin, the author of Sickness Absence: Lessons for Northern Ireland Businesses and Managers, is quoted in an article in the Belfast Telegraph about this issue and the fact that 35% of the people recorded as being off sick have a long term health condition. She says:
“This, coupled with NI’s growing and ageing population, suggest that sickness and therefore absences are likely to be a lingering issue and so it is important that firms and managers are supported and encouraged to act to reduce the negative impacts.”
Talking about the high number of absences in the civil service she said that:
“When broken down by grade level the general trend is for absences to decrease as seniority increases,” she explained.
“For instance, in 2022/23 individuals who were Grade 5 and above (senior civil servants) lost 6.1 working days per staff year compared to 13.8 workings days lost for administrative staff.”
Smaller Firms Are More Adversely Impacted As They Lack Resources
And with regard to small firms, in the same article, she said:
“Smaller firms are more adversely impacted as they lack resources such as occupational health, human resources and are more likely to be unable to afford temporary staff which creates extra workload for other staff.
“They are also less likely to be able to pay above Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) so employees are less likely to take time off which may result in employees going to work ill and working at a reduced capacity.”
Mrs Martin also said: “Businesses in the private sector would benefit from further research, specifically a Northern Ireland-focused sickness absence survey to build upon the evidence provided in this report and to better measure the impact, particularly productivity, on firms.”