Investing in Wellbeing

Investing in workforce wellbeing is the best decision any business can make

Absence facts and figures

  • Absence costs organisations £554 per employee every year
  • Average absence in the private sector is 7 days per employee
  • In the public sector, absence levels are even higher at nearly 11 days
  • On average, manual workers have 1.5 more days’ absence per year than non-manual workers
  • Absence levels tend to be higher in larger organisations, regardless of sector
  • Less than 40% of organisations monitor the cost of employee absence with the public sector and larger organisations most likely to do so.

The causes of absence

  • Minor illness remains the most common cause of short term absence
  • Musculoskeletal injuries, back pain and stress follow closely behind
  • Long-term absences relate to acute medical conditions, stress, musculoskeletal injuries, mental ill health and back pain.
  • Organisations report that up to 34% of short term absences are non-genuine

Organisations believe…

  • 75% of UK organisations believe it is possible to reduce employee absence
  • 40% have a target in place to do so
  • 25% have achieved their 2014 target
  • A further 38% have reported they almost achieved it.

Lifestyle related wellbeing

  • Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the UK
  • Coronary heart disease is the single most common cause of death in the working age population
  • Just 5% of adults achieve the government’s recommended physical activity level
  • Almost a quarter of adults in England are classified as obese
  • 1 in 17 people in the UK has diabetes
  • Over 75% of adults consume less than the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Long term conditions cost £20 billion is lost in productivity every year

Mental wellbeing

  • 40% report an increase in stress related absence
  • Workload remains the most common cause of stress, followed by non-work relationships/ family, management style and relationships at work
  • 40% report an increase mental health problems such as anxiety and depression in the past 12 months
  • Stress and other mental health conditions are now among the main causes of employee absence – around 40%, 91 million days a year
  • 1 in 6 workers experience depression, anxiety or stress
  • The cost of mental ill health to businesses averages over £1,000 per employee per annum
  • Larger organisations are particularly likely to report an increase
  • With adequate training, businesses can reduce the cost of managing mental health conditions at work by £9 billion

What do successful businesses do…

  • 81% of FTSE 100 Companies have an active health and wellbeing programme in place
  • Companies who track and report the success of their well-being programmes outperform those that don’t by 10%
  • 83% of employees value a prospective employer’s positive attitude to workforce health
  • 30% of organisations report their well-being spend has increased this year in comparison with 2014.

Sources:Absence Management 2015 Link:

Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE (2011) “Health at Work – an independentreview of sickness absence”. (ISBN: 9780101820523 Link:

Oswald, A. (2014). Happiness and Productivity. University of Warwick Link: