'Snowflake' workers spark highest workplace absences in a decade with 'stress' as major cause

A worker standing alone in an office

A worker standing alone in an office

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 30/09/2023

- 09:09

Updated: 01/10/2023

- 09:26

The coronavirus pandemic is seen as a key factor behind the hit to workplace wellbeing

Workplace absences have hit their highest level in over a decade, new analysis has revealed.

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) indicated an average 7.8 absence days per employee over the past year.

The study, which included over 900 companies employing 6.5 million staff, showed a two day increase compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Some users on social media suggested the issue was with the workers, with one saying: “F****n snowflakes.”

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Another wrote: “We are a nation of wet middle class wooses. The men in their country need to man up.

“My jobs stressful I know that and work it till it’s not. Not take time off because I’m stressed. Ffs man up Britain.”

A third said: “No it’s lazy people, who got too used to working from home and being on furlough. They have become complacent.”

Another complained: “Woke folk who believe they are entitled to live without working.”

But not everyone appeared to agree with this assessment.

One wrote: “13 years of austerity and catastrophic Tory Government will do this to people.”

Modern open plan office with hot desks

Modern open plan office with hot desks


A second argued: “Because these days you have to overwork yourself if you want to do anything other than pay your bills.”

Another wrote: “Worst pension in Europe. Worst sick pay in Europe. Connect the dots.”

However, the study showed stress was high on the list of reasons.

Work-related and cost-of-living pressures also made the cut.

Minor illnesses were the main factor behind short-term absences.

Three-in-four respondents had been off work due to stress over the past year.

Workers walking through the city

Workers walking through the city


Almost two-in-three long-term absences were blamed on mental health issues.

Over a third of firms also reported COVID-19 remained a significant cause of short-term absence.

The analysis corroborates recent data compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month.

The ONS found that more than 2.6 million people do not have jobs due to their health.

Rachel Suff, senior employee wellbeing adviser at the CIPD, said: "External factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have had profound impacts on many people's wellbeing.

"It's good to see that slightly more organisations are approaching health and wellbeing through a stand-alone strategy.

A stock image of an office meeting

A stock image of an office meeting


"However, we need a more systematic and preventative approach to workplace health.

"This means managing the main risks to people's health from work to prevent stress as well as early intervention to prevent health issues from escalating where possible."

Claudia Nicholls, chief customer officer at Simplyhealth added: "With record numbers of people off sick, employers have a vital role to play in supporting them through workplace health and wellbeing services.

"They can have a positive impact on the economy and ease pressure on the NHS.

"Despite an increasing number of workplace health and wellbeing services being put in place, employees are experiencing increasing mental health issues and the highest rate of sickness absence in a decade.

"However, focusing on fixing sickness alone is unlikely to uncover areas where any significant improvements can be made; companies need to implement preventative health and wellbeing strategies that are supported by the most senior levels of leadership and build line manager skills and confidence to support wellbeing."

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