Sectoral gulf in sickness absence

Public sector absence rates are 30% worse than in the private sector – according to The Confederation of British Industry (CBI)/Axa’s Who cares wins: absence and labour turnover 2005 survey.

Public sector workers were off sick an average of 9.1 working days in 2004, while private sector workers had 6.4 days off ill.

Overall, the absence rate of 6.8 working days in 2004 was an improvement on the 7.2 days lost in 2003.

Smaller organisations with under 50 staff had better attendance records than big employers of 5,000 staff – 4.5 days versus 8.3 days respectively.

Greater London at 5.6 days had the lowest absence, with the South West recording the most days off (8 days). The main cause of absence was minor illness.

Some 14% of absence is considered to be for non-genuine reasons.

Manual staff (8.4 days) recorded higher rates of absence than non-manual workers (6 days), while workers represented by trade unions had higher absence rates.

The CBI said this annual cost of absence to the economy was £12.2bn, or £495 per worker. Labour turnover was unchanged on the previous year at 15.7%.

Senior management buy-in was seen as key to absence reduction, with 2.3 working days less absence than employers which delegate the task to line managers.

Order copies of the CBI/Axa Who cares wins: absence and labour turnover 2005 report, which costs £75, go to