69% have worked when ill

69% have worked when ill

Working Whilst Ill

According to a study by Aviva UK Health, more than two-thirds (69%) of the UK’s private sector working population have at some time gone into work when they are unwell. This contrasts with less than one quarter (23%) who say they have falsely declared themselves as sick in order to avoid attending work.

Some people may go into work when they are ill as they fear that their employer might not look favourably on their absence, while for others it may be something of a financial necessity if their company does not operate a generous sick pay scheme. However, the study found that perhaps the biggest reason why people work when ill is that they fear that a large workload would build up in their absence.

If staff attend work when feeling unwell, not only is their own productivity likely to be affected, but there could be a knock-on effect as any infections are passed on to their colleagues.

Sickness absence in the UK was 4.3 days per person last year, compared with 7.2 days back in 1993, when this was first recorded. In the absence of any strong indicators that the UK population is getting considerably healthier, this significant reduction in absence levels led the Trades Union Congress to describe the UK’s workforce as “mucus troopers”.

Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva UK Health, commented:

“Businesses need to ensure they create a working culture whereby people do not feel pressurised into coming to work when they are unwell, safe in the knowledge their absence can be effectively managed.

“Presenteeism, driven in part by an increased ‘always-on’ culture, poses a genuine threat to overall business performance through the adverse impact on productivity and morale in the workplace. Businesses should ensure they take the lead on communicating proactively to employees that it’s important to take a step back when unwell and it can be in everyone’s interest.

“Businesses can also counter such issues by ensuring they continue to explore new ways in which to improve the working experience for employees. Investment in health and wellbeing is no longer a nice to have; it must be looked on as a priority.”

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