The total number of days lost by UK workers to sickness increased to a record high last year, according to new data.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said about 185.6 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury during the year, almost 25% more than 2021 and the highest since records began in 1995.
Meanwhile, the overall rate of absence due to sickness hit an 18-year high amid growing NHS waiting lists.
Increases in the size of the UK workforce partly contributed to the record number of days lost in total.
The ONS said women and older workers were among those to report the highest rates of sickness absence.
ONS head of labour market and household statistics David Freeman said: “Sickness absence rose again in 2022, so that the proportion of working hours lost was the highest since 2004.
“This comes after it dropped to its lowest ever rate at the start of the pandemic, when lockdown and furloughing reduced people’s exposure to minor illnesses.
“Because the working population is much bigger now than it was nearly 20 years ago, in 2022 the total number of working days lost was the highest on record.”
It comes a week after separate data from the statistics body showed that the number of people off work due to long-term sickness rose to another all-time high, at 2.5 million, over the three months to February this year.
Liberal Democrat health and social care spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said the figures are linked to growing NHS waiting lists.
“Behind these figures are millions of people across the country waiting in pain for treatment,” she said.
“People cannot see their GP when they need to, dental practices are closing their doors to NHS patients, pharmacies are closing, and waits for hospital treatment are through the roof.
Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, said: “These figures should not be misread as showing the sickness rate for working people.
“They miss out on many workers with little choice but to work while ill.
“This includes low-paid workers excluded from sick pay entitlement and those who can’t get by on just £110 a week – the miserly rate for statutory sick pay.”