Staff use holiday entitlement to cover up sickness

One-in-five employees have used up some of the annual holiday entitlement to cover up the fact they are ill.

Of this group, nearly a third (32%) said that they did so because they do not get paid for taking sick days, while 26% said they were afraid their sickness absence record would count against them in the event of redundancies being made, according to research carried out by Axa PPP Healthcare.

However, nearly three-quarters (72%) of staff go to work despite feeling ill enough to legitimately stay at home, and two-thirds (66%) of the 2,000 employees surveyed have gone to work while ill in the past six months alone. More than half (53%) of respondents have not taken a single day off sick.

Sales and marketing workers are the most likely to continue working through illness, with nearly nine-in-ten (87%) say they would go into work. Charity workers are the most likely to take time off, with 48% saying they would stay at home if they were unwell.

The report found there are several reasons why employees feel the need to soldier on, such as not wanting to colleagues down by being away (29%), having too much work to do (24%), and fearing their actions will lead to poor sick leave records, resulting in their employer using it against them when it comes to making redundancies (15%).

Dudley Lusted, head of corporate healthcare development at Axa PPP Healthcare, said: “Sickness absence is very often due to minor, self-limiting illnesses and, as this survey shows, most employees continue to turn up to work when they’re feeling under the weather. It’s wrong to subject hard working people to over zealous absence management methods such as having to report in sick to an occupational nurse ‘helpline’.”

He added that absence must be handled in a way that ensures there no long-term implications. “Smart employers will make sure their managers are properly trained and supported to manage attendance positively and, when people are off work sick, concentrate on managing those employees whose attendance should give genuine cause for concern, whether it is frequent absence takers or people with medical conditions that put them at risk of being off long term sick,” he said.