Public sector staff are more likely to come into work when sick than private sector employees, research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed.
The union said the data raised questions about the government’s bid – outlined in Budget 2010 supporting documents – to find efficiencies by cracking down on absence in the sector.
The research found that public sector workers were more likely to work when too ill to do so and less likely to call in sick. However public sector workers take longer periods of time off sick.
Within the past year 41% of public sector staff went into work sick when they should have stayed at home, compared to 36% of private sector workers.
In total 33% of public sector workers said their reason for doing so was because people depend on the job they did and they did not want to let the team down.
A further 18% did not want to give their colleagues extra work, which compared with 12% in the private sector.
Public sector employers are also more likely to be supportive of those with long-term illnesses and have good sickness policies, the TUC found.
About one in eight public sector employees said they were concerned about losing pay by not going into work, whereas 23% of private sector workers had this concern.
Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, said: “People often talk about a ‘sicknote culture’ in the UK. Many seem to think that public sector workers are particularly guilty of taking time off work when they are not really unwell.
“The truth is we are really a nation of mucus troopers, where workers – particularly those in the public sector – routinely go into work when they are too ill and should be at home. And they do this – not because they are afraid of their boss – but because they know they do vital jobs in over-stretched workplaces.
“Absence rates have been falling over time in the public and private sectors. It is a myth that there are big, quick and easy savings from new policies that assume that sickness absence is mostly skiving.”