Long-Term Sickness Absences Hit Record High

The UK grapples with a record-breaking surge in long-term sickness absences, reaching over 2.8 million individuals, marking an increase of 700,000 over the past three years.

Before the pandemic, approximately 2.1 million individuals were classified as economically inactive due to long-term sickness. The staggering rise in long-term sickness absences underscores the profound impact of health-related challenges on workforce participation, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Analysts at HSBC highlight a concerning trend, noting that the total number of individuals aged 16 to 64 inactive due to long-term sickness has surged by 36% since the end of 2019. This surge in long-term sickness absences poses significant challenges to economic recovery efforts, intensifying inflationary pressures and constraining the pool of available workers.

The rise in long-term sickness absences has broader implications for the economy, contributing to a decline in employment levels and exacerbating inflationary pressures. Charlie McCurdy of the Resolution Foundation underscores the broader economic implications, citing rising redundancies, falling job levels, and stagnant economic growth as signs of a troubled economy.

Experts attribute the rise in long-term sickness absences to various factors, including delays in routine healthcare treatments, increased mental health issues, and tighter access to basic benefits provision. However, a consensus on the primary drivers of this trend remains elusive.

The surge in economically inactive individuals extends beyond long-term sickness absences, with the overall number of economically inactive people of working age reaching 9.4 million. This level, last seen in 2012, underscores the severity of the current economic challenges.

Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, said: “We’ve seen long-term, sickness-related inactivity rise since the pandemic. That’s why we introduced our £2.5 billion back-to-work plan to transform lives and grow the economy.

“Our welfare reforms will cut the number of people due to be placed in the highest tier of incapacity benefits by over 370,000. As millions are benefiting from this month’s huge boost to the national minimum wage, it is work, not welfare, that delivers the best financial security for British households.”

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Long-Term Sickness Absences Hit Record High