New study finds
Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of UK workers – around seven million people – say they would only take time off work if they were hospitalised and had no other choice. Canada Life Group Insurance’s new research reveals a worrying attitude towards taking time off for sickness among the UK workforce. Nine in ten (89 per cent) UK workers say they’ve gone into work when feeling ill, a proportion which is virtually unchanged compared to 2016 (90 per cent), suggesting employers’ efforts to improve wellbeing are failing to reduce Presenteeism among employees.
The issue is pronounced, with the survey indicating that 47 per cent of respondents would come into work with a stomach bug and more than half (55 per cent) would go into work if they had the flu – despite the high chance of this illness spreading to their co-workers. Half (48 per cent) of workers say they have become unwell due to a colleague’s illness on more than one occasion.
The main reason employees cite for going into work when unwell is feeling their illness doesn’t warrant a day off, identified by 69 per cent of respondents. A third (34 per cent) say high workloads have forced them to go into work when unwell, and 22 per cent say they were motivated by financial concerns.
Table 1: Reasons why employees have come into the office when ill
|Even though I felt unwell, I didn’t think it was serious enough to warrant a day off
|My workload is too great for me to have time off, even if I feel unwell
|I worry about the financial implications of taking time off
|Other colleagues/senior members of staff make me feel guilty for taking time off even if I’m ill
|I don’t feel secure enough in my job/I feel too threatened by the risk of redundancy to take time off for illness
|I didn’t think I would be able to secure a doctor’s note
Answers do not add up to 100 per cent as respondents could pick more than one option.
Improving perceptions of illness in the workplace
The research also highlights that some employees are worried about how they would be perceived for taking time off due to illness, with this fear also contributing to Presenteeism. Almost a fifth (17 per cent) of respondents say they worry about coming across as weak for taking time off with a short-term illness. An additional 14 per cent say they worry about being viewed as lazy, and 13 per cent worry about being seen as undedicated.
There is a lack of awareness among employees about workplace support for sickness absence. More than two in five (43 per cent) respondents say they are not aware of any form of sickness absence support in their organisation, while 14 per cent say their employer definitely doesn’t offer anything. Just 10 per cent say their employer has an Employer Assistance Programme in place, which is a crucial tool for providing preventative and practical health support in the workplace. Having services in place and communicating this regularly to staff is vital for improving workplace health and wellbeing.