Social care workforce sick days

It is well known that staff sickness days cost employers money, and while sickness days are inevitable it is important to look at how their numbers are changing over time and to see whether they can be reduced.

How have the average number of sickness days changed over time?

The National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC) collects information from care providers to understand the size and scope of the adult social care sector. This can include the types of care services provided, how much care provision there is and information on the workforce. For more information on this data please see 'about this data' below. Here we only look at data on staff employed (directly and indirectly) by adult social services departments in England. The data do not include information on privately funded social care, or children's social services.

The median number of sickness days has varied little and has been 1 day every year since 2011, except for 2013 when it peaked at 1.5 days. We see that the average (mean) number of sickness days per employee is a lot higher than the median. This is likely to be due to a small group of employees taking a large number of sickness days; we will see how this varies in the next chart. Similar to the median number of sick days, the mean number of sick days increased in 2013 to 10.3 days but fell the following year. The average number of sick days did increase again in 2015 to a high of 11 days.

Has the distribution of sickness absence changed?

The largest percentage of staff took zero sickness days in all years (45% in 2015). There was a noticeable increase of 4.1 percentage points of the proportion of staff taking no sickness days from 2013 to 2014 which would in part explain the decreases we saw in the previous chart. These proportions mean that over 50% of staff took at least one sickness day in each year. A substantial 7% of employees had more than 40 sick days in 2015. These proportions have stayed roughly similar since 2011.

How do sickness days vary by job type?

The group with the smallest percentage of people taking zero sickness days was direct care; this was 42% in 2015, 3 percentage points lower than the proportion for all job roles. Direct care is however the largest staff group and makes up over 50% of the workforce (data not shown). The biggest difference for the direct care group is the percentage of staff taking 'more than 40' sickness days; this was 9% in 2015 compared to 5% for managers and supervisors, 7% for professionals and 5% for other staff. This indicates that job roles that are directly involved in providing care and support take, on average, more sickness days than those not directly involved; this was 12.1 days in 2015 compared to 10.5 for all job roles.

About this data

Since 2012 all 152 councils in England provided an NMDS-SC return, but the coverage for each individual data item varied. For more information on the coverage, completeness and methodology of this data please see the Health & Social Care information Centre website.

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