93% of staff go to work when ill

Some 93% of respondents go into work when ill, according to research by Canada Life Group Insurance.

Sickness absence

Its research, which surveyed 888 employees, found that this percentage is unchanged from 2013.

The research also found that 8% of staff only take sick leave if hospitalised or with no other choice and a fifth have come into work when ill due to fear of redundancy or other financial implications.

Excessive workloads were cited as a common cause of presenteeism, with almost a third (29%) of employees saying their workload was too great to allow for time off, even if they felt unwell.

Other findings include:

  • 72% of employers do not perceive health and wellbeing as a top priority in their organisation.
  • Employees took an average of 4.4 days off sick in 2014, which is slightly higher than 2013, when the figure was 4.1, but lower than the average of 5.6 days in 2007 and seven days between 1993 to 1996.
  • 20% of staff said they would go into work with a stomach bug, up from 21% in 2013.
  • 23% of staff would take time off for a headache or migraine, while 21% would take time off if suffering from stress-related illnesses.
  • 16% of workers are made to feel guilty by other members of staff for taking time off for sickness.
  • 34% of employees have chosen to take annual leave when ill to avoid a poor sickness record, while 12% have attempted to do this in the past.
  • 73% of staff say they have come into the workplace when unwell because they did not think it was serious enough to warrant time off.
  • 84% of staff say that they perform worse when they are at work and ill, and 18% say they perform significantly worse, up from 16% in 2013.
  • 82% of employees have become seriously ill as a result of another colleague coming into work when unwell, representing a rise of 1% from 2013, while 18% say this often happens.
  • 38% of workers do not believe they have any form of workplace support to help deal with sickness absence, and 9% say it is definitely not available.
  • 28% of staff believe health and wellbeing is the top priority of their organisation, compared to 44% who believe cost-efficiency is more valued.
  • 36% of employees feel their output for business profits is more important to their organisation than wellbeing.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group said: “The persistence of presenteeism in the UK workforce is a troubling sign that employers have failed to take active steps to promote health and wellbeing.

”Not only is this presenteeism detrimental to the individual concerned, it also has a negative impact on the wider business as well, encouraging the spread of illness and draining productivity.

“Employers must have a clear sickness absence system in place that emphasises employees will not be penalised for taking time off if they are genuinely ill.

”Employee benefits also help to communicate the message that employers value their staff and their wellbeing, and are clearly appreciated by employees: a third (36%) of workers said they would like their employer to provide them with a rehabilitation programme should they fall ill. This is a proactive measure employers can take to avoid presenteeism, and reduced productivity, taking hold of their organisation.”