One in eight workers would have to be hospitalised before calling in sick

Becky Frith , 21 Sep 2015


More than one in eight (13%) workers would have to be hospitalised and have no other choice before calling in sick, according to Canada Life Group Insurance.

The researchers found that almost nine in 10 UK workers (89%) have come into work while sick, with nearly a third (32%) saying their workload is too great for them to take time off for illness. Around a fifth (21%) worry about the financial implications of calling in sick and 13% didn’t feel secure enough in their job to take time off. More than one in 10 (13%) said colleagues and senior members of staff make them feel guilty for taking time off when unwell.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters (71%) of employees said they have become ill after another colleague came into work when unwell, with 14% saying they experience this at work ‘all the time’.

The survey also found 36% would not take time off if they had a stomach virus, even when experiencing symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea. Almost half (49%) would not take time off if they had the flu.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group, said that presenteeism shows no sign of letting up. “At a time when recruitment and retention are increasingly crucial, ensuring employees feel valued and secure is a vital element to this. Employers should have a clear sickness absence system in place to assure employees they will not be penalised or face any recrimination for taking time off when they are genuinely unwell,” he said.

He added: “Particularly concerning is the seemingly low value employees place on mental illnesses, with far too many willing to come into work while suffering from this. Recent research found the number of workers seeking help for depression has risen by 40% in the last year, highlighting the need for employers and staff alike to recognise the importance of treating mental illness as an important issue.”

Kate Nash, founder of networking services Purple Space and Kate Nash associates, told HR magazine that company networks can help foster a better attitude around ill health.

“Networks foster the sharing of good practice about managing ill health and disability while at work,” she said. “With a growing culture of presenteeism it is more difficult than ever to take time out when you genuinely need time off due to sickness, treatment or rehabilitation. Being part of an employee network can help to build your confidence to ask for the adjustments you need, and that includes time off when ill.”