Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Over 200 million working hours a year lost to healthcare appointments

New research by employee benefits provider, Unum, estimates UK businesses lost 201 million hours – or an estimated £900 million in paid sick leave* – to employees taking time off work for health appointments in the last year alone.

The survey of over 2,000 UK workers finds the average full-time worker spent 8.3 hours attending appointments each year, making 3.1 visits to their GP and 1.7 visits to specialists (of these 2.5 hours were taken as paid sick leave).

Many respondents (60%) said they found taking time off for these appointments ‘stressful’, and 25% said they had to cancel an appointment due to personal issues or their workload being too high. 62% of full-time workers who had to cancel a healthcare appointment said their health deteriorated to some extent as a result.

In addition to the health implications of workers waiting for appointments, the hidden cost of lost productivity to UK employers is significant too. Three-quarters of workers (77%) report their productivity at work is impacted while waiting for appointments.

Unum UK Chief Executive, Peter O’Donnell, commented:

“Good employers understand the importance of enabling workers to attend their health care appointments promptly and it’s concerning that so many feel stressed about taking this time out.

“What’s even more worrying is the number reporting worsening conditions either due to missing an appointment or having to wait a long time to get the help they need.”

Recognising how challenging access to healthcare support can be for workers, Unum launched its Help@hand app last year giving employees easy access to remote GPs, second opinions, mental health support, and physiotherapy. The app available to all Unum Group Income Protection policies at no additional cost.

Peter O’ Donnell added: “We know that access to convenient medical support can sometimes be difficult for workers and their families and we wanted to offer a service that made a tangible difference. Early treatment can often result in a quicker resolution to a medical issue and bring added peace of mind.”


*The Unum study was based on a nationally representative sample of 2,031 fulltime adult workers aged 18+. Full-time work was defined as of 30 hours or more per week.