Farmers long-term sickness figures rise by 11%

A rural insurer is warning farmers to protect themselves from unforeseen time off as the new figures show that long-term sickness across the industry has been rising by 11% year-on-year. 

NFU Mutual warns farmers to protect themselves as long-term sickness figures across the industry are rising by 11% year-on-year. 

NFU Mutual’s latest ONS data demonstrated that more than 2.8 million workers across the UK are now economically inactive because of long-term illness. This marks an increase of 700,000 in the last three years. 

The agriculture sector has also seen an increase in the average number of days lost to absence, with statistics from the Sick Leave Report 2024 showing a rise from 230 days in 2022 to an average of 255 in 2023. 

NFU Mutual’s spokesperson said that worryingly, this is twice the UK average, and highlights the particular dangers associated with the sector.  

In fact, over the last four years, long-term sickness in the industry has increased by 44%, which marks a huge rise from pre-Covid levels. 

Protection available 

Some illnesses and accidents can leave farmers unable to work, impact production, and in some cases, put the farm’s long-term viability at risk. But there are protection options available that can help with these unexpected issues or costs that arise. 

David Nottingham, protection expert at NFU Mutual, said: “Farmers know more than most how unexpected events and illnesses can impact their business. While none of us like to think about it, having a safety net in place can make all the difference if the worst should happen. 

“These unforeseen absences can put a huge strain on the farm, particularly if it is one heavily reliant on just one or two people. 

“However, there are a number of ways to guard against those problems to help secure the future of the farm and keep it running.” 

Critical illness 

NFU Mutual provides critical illness and income protection covers.

Mr Nottingham added that critical illness cover gives farmers a lump sum of cash if they are diagnosed with a serious illness specified under the cover.  

The money can be used to repay farm borrowings, pay for home adaptations or meet other commitments they may need. 

In the UK, last year’s figures show there was £1.27 billion paid out in critical illness cover, with almost 92% of claims accepted, and the average pay-out totalling more than £66,000. 

The NFU Mutual protection expert said that the cover provides a “safety net” for farmers as they can use the money to keep up payments against borrowings. It could also prevent some people from having to make the painful decision to sell up. 

Income protection 

Mr Nottingham added that income protection can offer regular payments if a farmer is incapacitated and unable to work due to illness or injury. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that 10,000 people suffered from work-related ill health (new or long-standing) in agriculture, forestry and fishing over the period from 2018/19 to 2022/234. 

“Despite safety on farms constantly improving, life is unpredictable, and accidents can still happen. 

“Income protection can provide the peace of mind that you still have an income so you can get help running the farm in your absence,” he concluded. 

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