Nearly one in six East of England employers have seen a rise in staff sickness absence over the past year as the UK comes out of Covid, a survey has found.

The YouGov study - commissioned by conciliation service Acas - found 15% of employers in the region saw a rise in the number of employees off sick compared to 12 months ago.

Most (71%) said there had been virtually no change, 7% reported a decrease and 8% didn't know.

Figures from Office of National Statistics indicate that in 2021 sickness absence rates in the UK rose to their highest in more than a decade with an estimated 149.3m working days were lost due to sickness or injury. The figure equates to 4.6 days at year for every employee.

The YouGov survey, which was weighted, was carried out in the last week of September and used a sample size of 1007 adults, of which 55 were from East of England-based businesses. 

Acas, which is hosting a series of courses on managing absences at work, suggested that Covid might be a driver of the increase.

"East of England businesses are seeing an increase in the number of employees absent through sickness, and they may be impacted by increases in flu or Covid cases, or the effects of long Covid," said Acas East of England director Maria Shinn.

East Anglian Daily Times:

"When employees are unwell, it is important that businesses have a clear absence policy to reassure them about their rights and to ensure the business stays on an even keel.

"Effective handling of sickness absences at work can also provide clarity for employers and employees, and help avoid potential disputes."

Employers should have an absence policy in place which is clear about what is expected from both employers and employees if staff need time off work, said Acas.

It suggests that a workplace absence policy should include a guide on how to report absence and stay in touch, and on what support is available to staff during absences and when they return.

The policy should also be clear about how much the worker will be paid and for how long and when they need to get a fit note.