5 ways to reduce sickness absence at work

Sickness absence is costly to any business. A focus on reducing workplace absence will improve overall productivity and help you to avoid potential tribunals resulting from stress and anxiety in the workplace.


Days lost due to work-related ill-health.

Days lost due to work-related ill-health in 2021-2022 were as follows, according to the HSE:

  • Stress, depression or anxiety – 17 million
  • Musculoskeletal disorders – 7.3 million

Our factsheet provides support and guidance on how to reduce sickness absence.


1. Maintain an open dialogue about employee absence

Presenteeism, attending work despite genuine illness, is high among UK employees. As the working population ages, the incidence of long-term conditions is also likely to increase. It’s, therefore, vital that employers encourage honest dialogue about sickness and sickness absence.


The word 'sick' and a question mark as written on a board


Around 15 million people in England live with long-term conditions. Examples include heart disease and diabetes – and many are now living with long-Covid.


Ensuring you adjust for long-term conditions will help you to retain an older and experienced workforce and younger staff who may also experience long-term conditions. For example, some people may have specific times of the day when they can work well, but these fall outside of core working hours. Can you flex?


Introducing reasonable adjustments for people living with long-term conditions will enable them to continue working and reduce sickness absence.


The nature of long-term conditions means that people’s conditions will fluctuate, and some will have good and not-so-good days. ClearTalents allows employees to update their profiles anytime acting as a springboard for conversations between employees and employers.


Recommendations for employees with long-term conditions

In summary, we recommend the following:

  • Empower employees to ask for reasonable adjustments.
  • Maintain an ongoing conversation about shifting health conditions.
  • Encourage employees to take time off when they genuinely need it.
  • Making reasonable adjustments such as flexible working hours for staff who have long-term conditions.
  • Keep the conversation going – ClearTalents alerts managers when someone updates their inclusion passport – this may include a change in health.

ClearTalents instantly alerts managers when someone updates their inclusion passport

2. Make sure people have the right equipment

Musculoskeletal disorders are one of the leading causes of workplace absence. Poor posture and poorly configured workstations can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders. That’s why ClearTalents includes two workstation profiles for the home and office environment.


ClearTalents workstation profiles include a Display Screen Equipment assessment, which is required for all employees using a computer or electronic equipment with a screen at a desk (either their own or hot-desking). ClearTalents has a specific section covering all the DSE requirements and providing detailed recommendations for employers and employees and additional resources around safe working.


Our focus on workplace adjustments means we will also identify employees needing specific equipment, such as an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Making sure that staff have the right equipment helps to keep staff healthy.


ClearTalents has enabled Lloyds to proactively manage requests for workplace adjustments. It is a cost-effective tool for managing both DSE and workplace-related adjustments.


It is a legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments accounting for the nine protected characteristics listed in The Equality Act, 2010. One of these characteristics is disability.


Our tool will help identify the reasonable adjustments that will empower disabled people.

Read how to make flexible working fit for disabled employees

Recommendations for workplace adjustments

In summary, we recommend the following:

  • Conducts a Display Screen Equipment assessment for all staff every year.
  • Empower staff to ask for reasonable adjustments.
  • Make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees so they can perform at their best in their roles. It is also a legal requirement under The Equality Act 2010.

ClearTalents inclusion passport covers all 9 protected characteristics as outlined in The Equality Act 2010.

Discover how ClearTalents can help reduce sickness absence

3. Focus on mental as well as physical health

Our FAQs on the causes of sickness absence reveal the following:


  • 15% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace.
  • 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.
  • Nearly half of the UK’s long-term absence/sick leave is due to mental health issues.

We know that Mental Health is some of the most requested adjustments in ClearTalents. The tool empowers your people to talk about issues they may find difficult such as mental health, stress and anxiety.


It can also help to identify areas that could be causing stress, including:

  • Caring responsibilities
  • Disabilities
  • Communications styles
  • Long-term illness

By doing so, employers are empowered to make reasonable adjustments. Many are simple and free to implement.

To find out more about how Cleartalents can support employees’ mental health, contact us

4. Identify and support vulnerable groups

The ONS reveals that there are higher rates of sickness absence for specific groups.

These groups include:


  • women,
  • older workers,
  • people with long-term health conditions,
  • people working part-time, and
  • people working in caring, leisure and other service occupations.

The Equality Act recognises age and gender as two of its 9 protected characteristics.


ClearTalents is designed around these characteristics. In addition, we have designed it to address issues that may impact workplace employees. For example, do your employees have caring responsibilities? Women, for example, are more likely to care for older relatives.


Sexuality is also a protected characteristic. In our recent blog, we discovered that LGBTQ+ employees might be more likely to experience microaggressions in the workplace.


4 in 10 LGB+ employees experienced workplace conflict in the last year


Simple adjustments, such as the visible use of pronouns, have a positive impact.


ClearTalents helps you to discover the unique needs of every individual. In addition, we recommend the following:

  • Tailor reasonable adjustments to individuals
  • Don’t treat people as homogenous groups – for example, assuming all LGBTQ+ employees have identical needs
  • Be aware of any unconscious bias. Are you assuming older employees are too old for promotion or that younger ones lack the necessary experience?
  • Review inclusion passports on a 1-2-1 basis regularly.

5. Be aware of pressure points

We have designed ClearTalents inclusion passport so that employees can update it anytime their circumstances change. For example, do they have caring responsibilities they didn’t have previously? Has there been a change in health, for example, experiencing stress and anxiety?


Making ongoing reasonable adjustments will help reduce stress-related absence.


There are also specific points in an employee journey that can be stressful. For example:


Get in touch

Winner of the 2020Workplace Inclusion Awards in the Tech4Good Awards; CIPD Health and Wellbeing Strategy Award, multiple RIDI Awards, including the Employers' Choice Award, judges described it as outstanding