Positive Psychological Wellbeing for Optimal Performance: The Cost-Effective Approach.

The financial cost of ill-health to business and industry, in the form of absence days, are calculable and high. As the following research statistics suggest however, the real cost of reduced employee wellbeing, although less easy to calculate, potentially pails the cost of sick days into insignificance. 

 Sickness Absence

 According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS, 2014), in the UK 2013; 

  • 131 million days were lost due to sickness absence.
  • Within the Private Sector, 1.9% of working hours were lost due to sickness absence.
  • The largest workforces (>50 employees) reported the highest sickness absence levels with 2.3% of working hours lost.
  • Sickness absence was the lowest for managers, directors and senior officials, at 1.3% of working hours.

 According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the cost to UK business for sickness absence and its associated costs in 2013 accounted for 90% of the total absence bill at £28.8 billion.

 N.B: It is worth noting that the cost of absenteeism is calculated in relation to the average UK employee daily wage, whilst more generally, the real rates and costs of absenteeism are likely to be masked by a lack of comprehensive absence reporting procedures across many companies.  


The above (ONS, 2014) statistics highlight a decline in sickness absence since 2003, however, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD, 2013) report that this fall in absence levels coincides with almost a third of employers reporting an increase in the number of people going into work ill. This behaviour, referred to in the UK as ‘presenteeism’, not only increases the risk of passing illness onto other employees, but ill employees; are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more prone to making costly mistakes and having accidents, and take longer to recover from their illnesses.

The cost of presenteeism is difficult to calculate, but;

  • In 2010, the UK Government’s Foresight Programme estimated that it cost the UK economy £15.1 billion each year (an amount which may well have risen with increasing reports of presenteeism).
  • Legal General, in an analysis of their own staff, reported presenteeism as costing the company three times more than sickness absence.
  • In a cross-industry report, AXA/PPP/Work Foundation (2010) estimated presenteeism costing business 105 times more than sickness absence.


The real cost of ill-health to business is becoming increasingly difficult to calculate, but the general consensus is that the accumulative costs of sickness absence and presenteeism are both high and rising. The consideration of positive wellbeing as more than a lack of ill-health, or indeed a neutral state, and the link between wellbeing and desirable performance-outcomes, suggests that a lack of positive wellbeing has costs that few, if any, company can afford to ignore.      

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