Workplace health crisis

Back pain blighting three in 10 workers with many considering quitting over lack of support


●       Three in 10 Brits (27%) report suffering from back pain at work, with over 8 million sick days taken for back pain alone last year.

●       Meanwhile, almost 6 million people are considering quitting from general health problems.

●       A quarter (24%) of back pain sufferers report their workplace was not supportive in helping them manage their issues yet a fifth of workers say having access to a physio would make them happier (20%) and more productive (17%) at work.

●       To help working Britain stay healthy, Simplyhealth is offering a new package of musculoskeletal health services from virtual physio service Phio, within its Health Plan for businesses which will be launched on 1 February at The Oxo Tower, London, at an event with keynote speaker Joe Wicks.

Three in ten (27%) workers report experiencing back pain, with 29% of those having considered quitting their jobs as a result, according to new data from employee health plan provider, Simplyhealth.

Not only is back pain blighting Brits. Almost seven in 10 (68%) workers report suffering from wider health problems at work with almost 6 million* considering quitting.

On average, a person will spend a third of their life at work*, yet today’s survey results show that too much of this time is spent in ill health, which Simplyhealth says urgently needs to change. Its recent Health and Wellbeing at Work report with the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) shows that workplace absences are now at a 10-year high, with sick days contributing to billions of pounds being lost to the economy.

Today’s findings reveal that a total of almost 19 million days are taken off for physical health problems alone, with over 8 million days taken for back pain, almost 6 million for dental issues and 4.5 million for eye health. Shockingly 25% of workers who have experienced a health problem say their workplace was not supportive in managing their pain.

With so many suffering from work-related issues, 70% of people think that employee health-support schemes should be offered by every employer. Despite this, over a third (36%) of employers don’t offer health schemes such as a health plan, employee assistance programmes, or private medical insurance.

This data comes as Simplyhealth launches a new category of Health Plan for the corporate market, with services addressing the top causes of sickness absence; mental health and MSK issues alongside virtual GP access, eye-care, dentistry, diagnostics and men and women’s health services. With long NHS waiting lists for treatment, Simplyhealth’s Health Plan provides employers with affordable access to healthcare for their whole workforce, where they can select and adapt the benefit levels to suit the needs of their employees.

Three in 10 UK workers (27%) say they have experienced back pain at work in the last year, while one in seven (16%) have experienced muscle pain (excluding back pain) as a result of work. Two-fifths (42%) of employees say that not having access to physiotherapy support through their workplace has contributed to back pain issues. A fifth of UK workers say workplace benefits that offered access to physio would make them happier (20%) and more productive (17%). 

To help with this, Simplyhealth has partnered with Phio, a virtual physio service which provides expert advice and treatment.

Previous data from Simplyhealth, also found that almost a quarter (23%) of working women have considered quitting due to the impact of menopause or menstrual symptoms at work. To address this issue, Simplyhealth have developed a specialised GP pathway service and joined forces with four women’s health charities, and became the first official health partner to the women’s health platform, Unfabled.

We all need to do more to support people to stay well at work, particularly when getting access to healthcare remains a key issue for many. We are seeing record numbers of workers on long-term sick leave and billions lost to the economy through sick days each year. Simplyhealth is here to give businesses the tools they need to help employees take a more proactive and preventative approach to their health.

These new findings also demonstrate that every industry has different health concerns. A one-size-fits-all solution is no longer appropriate. Whatever the sector, employers need the right services to keep their employees healthy, happy and productive – which is exactly what Health Plan helps them to do.

Claudia Nicholls, Chief Customer Officer at Simplyhealth

The new findings also demonstrate employees want help with finding and accessing counselling, with nearly two-thirds (61%) of workers who have experienced challenges with their mental health saying they would like their manager to be able to direct them to mental health support. A quarter of workers (24%) say access to counselling would make them happier and a fifth (21%) say it would make them more productive.

Managers would also like to be able to do more. Almost half (46%) of managers haven’t had any training to support employees around health problems, while 39% of managers don’t know how to signpost people they manage to health services or benefits offered by their company. That’s why Simplyhealth’s Health Plan will provide mental health counselling support, and will provide employees and their line managers with expert-led guidance on major health issues that enable both parties to have comfortable conversations, and understand where to get help via the plan. 


Between 15th-19th December 2023, Opinium surveyed 4,000 UK adults about their workplace health and wellbeing and employer practice. Of these 2420 respondents had a manager and 2420 had management responsibilities for others.

Time off work

The number of days taken is using the number of respondents who selected this health issue, extrapolated up to national population with the average amount of days taken off.

Type of IssueNumber of people who have taken a day offTotal number of days taken off
Physical: Back Related8,297,3288,297,328
Physical: Eye Related6,555,4214,588,795
Physical: Teeth Related7,446,3205,957,056

Physical – Back related 
‘On a nat rep survey of 4000 UK adults, 624 are UK adults who have taken at least a day off for eye related issues. 624 / 4000 * 53188000 (UK adult population) = 8297328 (shorthand 8.3 million). 1 day off * 8297328 = 8297328 (shorthand £8.3 million).

Physical – Eye related
On a nat rep survey of 4000 UK adults, 493 are UK adults who have taken at least one day off. 493 / 4000 * 53188000 (UK adult population) = 6555421 (shorthand 6.6 million). 0.7 day off * 6555421 = 4588794.7 (shorthand £4.6 million).

Physical – Teeth related

On a nat rep survey of 4000 UK adults, 560 are UK adults who have taken at least one day off. 560 / 4000 * 53188000 (UK adult population) = 7446320 (shorthand 7.4 million). 0.8 day off * 7446320 = 5957056 (shorthand £6 million).

Industry splits

Health concerns differ based on industry.

●       Back pain and other muscle pain are most common among those working in retail (33%, 22%) and healthcare (37%,19%).

●       Migraines and depression also affected healthcare workers most commonly (19%, 17%). Anxiety was highest in healthcare workers (37%) followed by education and retail industries (35%)

●       Workers in financial services (77%) [UK25146_Q2,AT19] and IT sectors (22%)[UK25146_Q2AW19] were most likely to have access to health support through their employer, and those in agriculture (31%) [UK25146_Q2 _AO19] and retail (35%) [UK25146_Q2, BF19], least likely.

**On a nat rep survey of 4000 UK adults, 450 are workers considering quitting due to health reasons. 450 / 4000 * 53188000 (UK adult population) = 5983650

Other data

-         Average time a person will spend at work -  https://www.gettysburg.edu/news/stories?id=79db7b34-630c-4f49-ad32-4ab9ea48e72b

-         Workplace absences at a 10-year high -  https://www.simplyhealth.co.uk/businesses/insights/health-wellbeing/cipd-report

-         Cost of sick days to economy -  Around £150 billion is lost to the economy from lost output from sick days each year.  (Oxera report https://www.oxera.com/insights/reports/the-economic-cost-of-ill-health-among-the-working-age-population/)

-         Mental health and MSK issues are top causes of sickness absence -https://www.simplyhealth.co.uk/businesses/insights/health-wellbeing/cipd-report