THE North-East has some of the UK’s highest sickness rates, a report has revealed.

A survey shows workers in the region take an average of 5.5 sick days.

The national average is 4.9 days.

Loading article content

The report, from manufacturers’ organisation EEF, which has more than 6,000 members, also says that while national levels of absence now stand at a record 2.1 per cent low, long-term sickness has increased in the last two years.

It highlighted stress and other mental health-related disorders as the main cause for absence, with just over half of companies surveyed saying workers had been affected.

Bosses at EEF says the increase comes despite firms putting in greater funding to manage absence and put health and well-being programmes on par with other investments.

However, they said there is increasing evidence manufacturers are seeing little benefit, with reports that the quality of the advice given by GPs is poor.

Andrew Tuscher, the EEF’s North-East director, said: “Sickness and absence levels in the region are marginally above average, so we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.

“Driving down absence rates, helping more employees return to work earlier and encouraging their well-being is critical for our economy.

“But, despite employers increasing investment in managing sickness absence and providing their employees with more health-related benefits, the improvement in overall absence rates has more or less now plateaued.

“From now on the focus has to be on reducing long-term absence, which is only going to happen if we up our game.”

Iain Laws, managing director of UK healthcare at consultancy Jelf Employee Benefits, said firms must look closer at sickness prevention.

He added: “That must become a priority for UK employers who need to maintain a competitive workforce in an overall population that is both ageing and ailing.

“This is not only essential to tackle absence, but to also address the less easily identifiable issue of presenteeism, which can see job performance decline as a result of ill health.

“This is fundamentally a well-being problem with stress and musculoskeletal issues almost certainly mirrored as the main causes, as with absenteeism.”