Sick Note

Recruitment sector sick leave days up by 16 per cent in past year

New analysis of over 1,700 businesses has revealed that those in the recruitment sector have seen one of the biggest rises in sick leave over the past year.

The Sick Leave Report 2024, conducted by HR systems specialist Access PeopleHR, part of the Access Group, revealed that the average UK business reported 128 days of sick leave in 2023 – up six per cent compared to 120 in 2022, and up 55 per cent since 2019.

Overall, the number of sick leave days taken in the recruitment sector have soared by 16 per cent in the past year, from 10 days of sick leave in 2022 to 11 in 2023. Although compared to 2019, sickness rates have dropped in the sector, with a 10 per cent reduction in sick absences in 2023.

Patterns of sickness absence in the recruitment industry reflect the changes in remote-working since the pandemic and the effect this has had on exposure to contagious illnesses. Sick leave dropped in the industry from 2019-2020 when work turned fully remote, proceeding to rise year on year upon the introduction of hybrid working from 2020-2023, although still sitting below 2019 levels.

The research suggests that those who are more customer-facing, and less office-based are likely to report the biggest growth in sickness absence, since they are less likely to rely on the ability to work remotely.

However, increased absence could also be a cause of deeper issues such as burnout, stress or a general rise in sickness, either industrially, or on an individual or company-by-company basis. This could be partly due to employees in the UK not using all their annual leave entitlement, with days of holiday taken dropping by 7.6 per cent from 2022-2023, increasing the likelihood of burnout, stress, and sick leave taken as a result.

The industries that saw the biggest spike in sick leave in the last year were real estate activities (a 67 per cent rise), recruitment (16 per cent), and arts, entertainment and recreation (13 per cent).

Administrative and support services have seen the biggest drop in sick leave over the last year – down by 76 per cent.

Charles Butterworth, Managing Director of the People Division at The Access Group,comments on the research: “This new report into the status of sick leave in the UK highlights the importance of a robust HR strategy for businesses when it comes to reducing sick leave. This could involve having clear policies and procedures, offering tangible support to those that appear to be taking excessive sick days and implementing a HR system to provide better absence management.

“This growth of sick leave in the recruitment industry could be due to a number of factors, such as experiencing more burnout and long-term sickness since the increased return to office based work in 2023, with the most common industries reporting growths in sick leave being less likely to work remotely – namely those in the arts, real estate and retail industries.

“Although, a lack of exposure to illness during lockdown and periods of remote working could also be the reason for more people getting sick in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Regardless, it’s crucial that businesses are monitoring sick leave using HR software to identify recurring problems, take action and determine whether an attendance review is necessary.”

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