Nearly two-thirds of employees come into work while ill

“Presenteeism”, or struggling into work when unwell, is becoming an increasing problem in UK workplaces, according to two separate studies.

A poll of more than 3,000 people by Capita Employee Benefits has concluded that more than two-thirds (70%) of workers feel it is becoming increasingly common for people to attend work while they are unwell.

The majority (59%) said they personally felt more pressure to go to work while ill than they used to.

Despite this, more than three-quarters (78%) believed colleagues who were genuinely sick should stay at home until they got better, for the benefit both of themselves and of those around them.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) admitted to going into work the last time they were ill, while almost half (47%) were worried about what their ­employer would think of them if they took time off to visit their doctor or dentist.

A separate study by health ­insurer Canada Life has come to much the same conclusion.

It found 93% of employees surveyed admitted to coming into work despite being ill. More than one-third, moreover, were so adverse to taking sick leave that they would rather use their ­annual holiday allowance than suffer a poor sickness record.

The pressure of a heavy workload dissuaded almost one-third of respondents from taking time off when ill, while one-fifth worried about the financial implications.

A similar proportion said other colleagues, such as senior members of staff, made them feel guilty for taking time off and one in eight felt they were too threatened by the risk of redundancy to take the time off work.

One-third admitted they would still come into work even if they had flu, while 14% would come in if they were experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea. More than three-quarters said they would not take time off for stress-related illnesses.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 81% of employees surveyed admitted they had caught illnesses from other members of staff.

What is more worrying from the OH perspective is that more than one-third were unaware of any form of workplace support in terms of sickness absence in their organisation, while 13% said they definitely did not have access to this.

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