90% of UK Employees Still Go to Work Despite Being Ill

A staggering 90% of employees admit they have gone to work despite feeling ill, highlighting that presenteeism is a persistent problem in the UK workforce, according to a new study by Canada Life Group Insurance.

High workloads are the number one reason for presenteeism, with more than one in four (28%) employees saying their workloads are too great for them to call in sick. Financial concerns (21%) and feeling guilty for taking time off work (17%) were also cited as reasons for presenteeism.

Of concern is the fact that employees worry they will be thought of as lazy (16%), weak (14%) or inconsiderate (14%) if they take time off work, even if they’re sick.

However, even though presenteeism appears to be rife in the UK, 69% of employees said they perform worse at work when they are sick than they do when they are healthy.

Furthermore, the survey found that presenteeism contributes to the spread of illness, which further hampers productivity in the workplace. In fact, almost three quarters (73%) of employees said they had fallen ill as a direct result of a colleague’s illness. Nearly a third (32%) said this had occurred on several occasions.

Perhaps this isn’t that surprising considering over half (54%) of employees said they would still go to work even if they had the flu, while 42% said the same if they had a stomach virus – despite having symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea.

Almost a quarter (23%) of workers said they would only call in sick if they had been hospitalised or had no other choice.

Worryingly, a whopping 80% said they would not take time off work for stress-related illnesses.

In a previous study, Canada Life Group Insurance found that over half (57%) of UK workers have suffered from mental health issues while still in employment.

When quizzed on whether their organisations take mental health issues seriously, more than one in 10 (13%) said no, adding that their employers were dismissive when it came to mental health issues.

Canada Life Group indicated that this could become more prevalent following the recent EU referendum result and the uncertainty and insecurity that surrounds it.

For example, the CIPD says that more than one in five (22%) employees feel less secure in their jobs as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. That’s equivalent to around seven million people. In contrast, just 3% said they felt more secure.

A third (32%) of workers who said they feel less secure in their jobs as a result of the EU referendum are more likely to come into work when they are ill, while 23% will work late or do unpaid overtime.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said employers should do more to reassure their employees that health and wellbeing is a top priority in the workplace.

“The vote to leave the EU has thrown everything into a state of flux, so it is of little surprise that people are now more concerned about job security and more likely to come into the office even if they are unwell. Now more than ever, it is crucial for employers to demonstrate they have a clear sickness absence policy in place that will not unfairly penalise anyone who takes time off for being ill,” he said.

Employers who take health and wellbeing in the workplace seriously will have happier and a more productive workforce. Some companies are unsure as to what they need to do and this is where Premier Choice Healthcare can assist.


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