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Personelle Today

mei 15, 2024


Half a million more women leave work because of sickness

More than half a million more women have fallen out of the workplace because of sickness and ill health over the past five years, the union body the TUC has said.


In an analysis of official and NHS data, the TUC has concluded the number of women economically inactive as a result of ill health increased by more than 500,000 over the last half decade.


The TUC has blamed “overstretched” public services and cuts to preventative health services for delaying access to treatment. Women’s physical and mental health is also being affected by low-paid, insecure work, it warned.


The union body has called on the government to “stop punishing people who are too ill to work”, in a reference to government plans to reform sick note certification and access to benefits.


The 503,000 increase (or more than 48%) over the last five years meant 1.54 million women are now economically inactive, the TUC said, the highest number since records began.


While economic inactivity because of long-term sickness has risen steeply for both men and women, the increase had been lower for men, rising by 37%, it added.


Further TUC analysis on changes in economic inactivity between the end of 2018 and end of 2023 looked at the main health conditions of those who are economically inactive because of long-term sickness. This found that:


    • The number of women economically inactive due to musculoskeletal issues (arms, hands, legs, feet, back and neck problems) increased by 126,000 (+47%).


    • The number of women economically inactive due to conditions like cancer increased by 19,000 (+15%).


    • The number of women economically inactive due to depression and anxiety and mental illness increased by 69,000 (+27%).


    • The largest increase was in the ‘other’ category, which saw a rise of 161,000 (+138%).



The sharp rise in long-term sickness was down to a combination of factors, the TUC warned. This included long NHS waiting lists and cuts to preventative services. A rise in more precarious working, often low-paid and insecure, had also had an impact.


Between October 2022 (when the current data began) and March 2024, the waiting list rose by 135,000 (15%) and now stands at 1.05 million.


Across this 15-month period, there had also been a 15% increase in adults waiting for musculoskeletal care and a 25% increase in adults waiting for physiotherapy, it added. In addition, 2023 was the worst year on record for cancer wait times.


TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “Instead of stigmatising people who are too ill to work, the government should be laser-focused on improving access to treatment and preventing people from becoming too sick to work in the first place.


“That means investing in local preventive services and bringing down our sky-high waiting lists. It means dealing with the chronic staffing shortages across the NHS and social care that are delaying patients from being seen when they need to,” he added.


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