A Sick Economy - How Occupational Health Support Can Help


Alarm bells are ringing over employee absences 

In recent news, the long-term sickness levels in the UK have reached an all-time high and this is having a huge impact on the economy, businesses, and raising concerns of public health. It comes due to a mix of contributing factors such as NHS waitlists and strikes, mental health crisis and poor workplace practices

Why is long-term sickness on the increase?

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people inactive due to long-term sickness is now 2.8 million and since last year, it’s been a huge increase of 200,000. Reasons for such a drastic increase include mental health; around 51% of long-term sick leave is due to stress, depression, or anxiety.

Whether poor mental health is caused by work or other personal reasons, there’s a large gap in support with wellbeing in the workplace and this means that many people may leave work or go on long-term sickness as they struggle to cope with their declining mental wellness.

How can Occupational Health support help prevent persistent employee sickness? 

Occupational health and wellbeing support not only helps to prevent long-term sickness, but it can also make people feel more comfortable having a support plan in place upon their return. Exteral occupational health services can also reduce NHS waitlists as it means employees can be seen sooner and offered the correct diagnosis and support.

Staff can be given psychological support and physio treatment via occupational health much quicker than via the NHS. Long-term sickness being at an all-time-high can be attributed to the fact that the waitlist for medical help is too large, resulting in a build-up of those awaiting support or treatment.

With occupational health at hand, adjustments can be made at work to help those who can’t physically perform certain tasks due to injuries or conditions. Getting a diagnosis and identifying struggles can allow teams to make the most suitable adjustments, preventing further problems and reducing long-term sickness. Rather than absent for a long time, employees can be made to feel more comfortable at work, confident that they aren’t straining or worsening conditions.

UKIM’s Consultant Occupational Physician, Alison Tweedie, reinforces the importance of occupational health on reducing long-term sickness…

Long term sickness is the most common reason for leaving the workforce and this has associated societal and economic implications. Higher sickness absence rates suggest that the population is living and working with more significant health issues and symptoms from health conditions than usual, and this is concerning.

UKIM Occupational Health & Wellbeing supports businesses to help individuals with health conditions to maintain attendance at work with tailored plans, considering the nature and impact of symptoms as well as the nature of their job. Overall, its aim is to keep individuals at work with ongoing health conditions rather than defaulting to sickness absence, which with associated long NHS waiting times would likely to be an extended time away from work. As above, longer time away from work increases the difficulty to return to the same post and may result in loss of employment.”

Here at UKIM Occupational Health & Wellbeing, we have a vast number of clinicians all across the UK as well as in-house clinicians at our HQ. We deliver both physical and psychological wellbeing support to ensure that employees and businesses are healthy and happy.