Sickness absence at record low, but at the expense of workers’ health

A survey conducted by the EEF, the manufacturers’ employers’ organisation, has shown that sickness absence is at a record low. However at a conference fringe event, UNISON claimed this is at the expense of the health of its members, with sick workers attending work when they are not fit to do so building up long term health problems for the future.

UNISON head of health and safety Tracey Harding said: “Although we would welcome anything that shows a genuine fall in sickness levels, we fear that this decrease has been at the expense of the health of our members, with sick workers, already suffering from increased stress levels, attending work, when they are not fit to do so.

“And all this at a time when they are expected to do more for less pay. They are stressed out, overworked and underpaid.” 

This view was supported by the EFF’s own findings which showed that although overall sickness absence levels are down, there have been significant increases in long term absences with stress and mental health disorders showing the biggest increases.

The theme for this year’s European Health and Safety Week, beginning 20 October, is stress.

Branches can order “cut stress not jobs” – UNISON’s current health and safety campaign – material including leaflets from the online catalogue. Additional material will be available nearer the week.

EEF findings

UNISON online catalogue