88% of employees attend work despite suffering from minor illness

minor illness

Nine in ten (88%) employees have admitted to attending the workplace when suffering from a minor illness, according to a study on absence and presenteeismby Canada Life Group Insurance.

The online survey of 1,001 full-time and part-time UK employees, carried out in August 2018, also revealed that nearly half (47%) of workers went through 2017 without taking a day off sick, representing a decrease from 54% in 2016.

Over half (53%) of employees attending work despite suffering a minor illness felt their condition did not warrant a day off. A quarter (25%) of respondents said their workload had been too great for them to take time off, while around one in ten (9%) did not feel secure enough in their role to phone in sick.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said: “Presenteeism is a vicious cycle. The drive to remain in the office can cause illness to spread or end up leading to a longer recovery time.”

Among those concerned about how their colleagues would view them, 19% felt they would be seen as weak, 17% believed they would be perceived as lazy and 15% thought they would be viewed as inconsiderate.

Nevertheless, while 14% felt they would be seen as undedicated and 7% as dishonest, 17% believed they would be seen sensible, the same percentage thought they would be perceived as genuine and 15% felt they would be viewed as honest.

Avis said: “It is encouraging to see that many employees view those taking time off for illness in a positive way, being described as genuine, honest and sensible. To reduce presenteeism, these positive perceptions must be encouraged so workplaces can reduce any stigma attached to taking time off.”

For employees who took time off for illness, the average number of days rose in 2017, from 2.8 to 4.4. Some 28% of those taking time off sick were out of the office for between one and five days, representing a slight decline from 30% in 2016, but one in 12 (8%) took between 11 and 20 sick days in total, the highest proportion since 2015.

On preventative measures, three in 10 (28%) respondents said flexible working options would help with both their physical and mental health, 27% said a more positive workplace attitude towards health and wellbeing would be beneficial, while a fifth (19%) wanted better workplace support, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs).