Although 2016's figures were not as low as 2013 (when an estimated 131.7 million days were lost) the increase in the labour force as a whole means that the average days lost per worker is the lowest recorded since the series began in 1993, standing at 4.3 days per worker.
Roughly 25% of absences were blamed on minor illnesses such as coughs and colds and 22.5% of absences related to musculoskeletal problems. However, mental health illnesses are an increasing problem causing 11% (or 15 million days) of absence The findings in relation to mental health conditions (which include stress, anxiety and depression) reflect the similar findings of the CIPD Absence Management Survey which we blogged on in November 2016.
One issue which the ONS statistics does not identify but which the CIPD survey did is the growing problem of "presenteeism" (where workers remain at work even though they are ill) and its contribution to stress in the workplace and lowered productivity. The extent to which the reduction in days absence per worker is a result of presenteeism is not known. However, the need for "well workplaces" is something that is being increasingly recognised. The challenge faced by employers going forward is not simply to lower absence levels, but to ensure that workers who are attending work are healthy, happy and contributing effectively to the success of the business.
The full report can be reviewed here: Sickness absence in the labour market