5 Common Questions About Workplace Absence and How DEI Analytics Software Can Help

Sickness absence continues to be a significant challenge for UK businesses, costing billions of pounds annually. Yet many are unaware of the fact that mental health issues are a major contributor to ill health. Looking beyond the financial implications of widespread workplace absenteeism, there is a more glaring issue at hand and that is of the profound effect on individual employees.

Increased work-related stress can be directly linked to workplace absences, not to mention the greater risk of tribunals and workplace conflicts which employers must contend with.

A pair of glasses, coffee mug and a box of tissues.

Much of this can be mitigated by fostering a healthier conversation between employers and employees, supported by the right tools and data-driven insights. ClearTalents’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) analytics software and workplace adjustment passport system offer a solution to address these challenges.

Our FAQs below explore the causes of some of the most common reasons for ill health among UK workers and up-to-date statistics you need to know. We’ll also discuss how ClearTalents’ DEI platform can help attract, retain, and support a diverse workforce by making reasonable adjustments and fostering an inclusive work environment.

5 FAQs on Employee Absence

1. What is the rate of sickness absence? 

The UK workforce had a sickness absence rate of 2.6% in 2022 (increasing by 0.4% from 2021 statistics), according to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). This equates to 185.6 million working days lost due to sickness, with an average of 5.7 days per employee. The sickness absence rate has been the highest it’s ever been since 2004 when it was reported at 2.7%.

While the UK’s absence rates are relatively low compared to other European countries, these figures may be misleading. Presenteeism – the pressure to be at work while unwell – is higher among UK employees, thus contributing to poor mental health overall. Mental health is therefore a serious issue that contributes to greater employee absences from work.

Shows an empty office. Text reads: 4.6 days, average rate of sickness per employee.

2. What are the most common causes of workplace absence? 

According to the latest ONS statistics (2021), the most common causes of workplace absence were:

  • Minor illnesses (29.3%): including colds, viruses, and other sickness bugs.
  • Musculoskeletal problems (10.5%): covers conditions affecting bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Respiratory conditions (8.3%): conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary hypertension.
  • Mental health conditions (7.9%): stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
  • Other (23.8%): Includes COVID-19 absences and some illnesses such as diabetes.

It’s interesting to note that respiratory conditions have overtaken mental health conditions as the fourth most common reason for sickness absence in 2022. 

While mental health conditions account for the statistically least likely cause of workplace absences – that does not mean that they should be ignored.

3. How common are mental health conditions in the workplace? 

Working conditions have a profound impact on mental health, and, by extension, an individual’s mental health can profoundly affect their job performance.

According to recent data from MHFA England, poor mental health accounted for over half of work-related illnesses in 2023, and 51% of long-term sick leave is due to anxiety, stress, or depression. An HSE report suggests that 55% of workers feel that work is getting more demanding, while a Deloitte report suggests that 70% of managers cite organisational ‘barriers’ to supporting staff wellbeing effectively. These barriers include company policies, heavy workloads, unsupportive workplace culture, and skills shortages. Therefore, we cannot simply take the ONS data at face value.


ClearTalents’ DEI analytics software and workplace inclusion passport system can help support employees’ mental health by facilitating open communication and making reasonable adjustments tailored to individual needs. With the inclusion passport, employees can confidentially share their requirements, which are then seamlessly communicated to line managers through the DEI platform, ensuring appropriate accommodations are made.

4. What is the cost of sickness absence to employers? 

The cost of sickness absence for UK businesses is significant. A recent Vitality study suggests that workplace sickness costs the UK economy £138 billion every year, with absences and low productivity due to presenteeism seeing British businesses lose 49.7 days per employee due to ill health. Mental health issues were the biggest factor in poor productivity. The same report identified better employee support, well-being improvements and proper benefit structures as key solutions to helping both employers and employees.

By implementing ClearTalents’ DEI software and inclusion passport system, businesses can reduce sickness absence costs by proactively addressing employee needs, fostering a more inclusive work environment, and improving overall workforce well-being.

5. Is sickness higher among specific groups?

The ONS found that groups with the highest rates of sickness absence in 2022 included:

  • Those aged 65 and over
  • Women 
  • People with long-term health conditions
  • People working part-time
  • People working in caring, leisure, and other service occupations

Sickness absence rates for public sector workers (3.6%) were consistently higher than those for private sector workers (2.3%). The likelihood of long-term sickness absence (LTSA) also increased, with recent aggregated data showing that half a million more people are out of the labour force due to LTSA than in 2019. 

Enterprise-Grade DEI Software to Help You Reduce Workplace Absences

ClearTalents’ DEI platform and workplace adjustment passport can help employers address the diverse needs of their workforce, ensuring reasonable adjustments are made to support individuals from various backgrounds and circumstances. Why not arrange a free DEI software demo today?

Are you interested in learning more about how ClearTalents’ DEI analytics software can benefit your organisation? Try our free DEI ROI calculator to estimate the potential return on investment from implementing our solution.

You can also read more about inclusive practices and supporting employee well-being on our blog.

Contact us for more information on how we can support you and your staff to create a more inclusive and accommodating workplace and reduce mental health-related absences.

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