The average employee worked for more than four days when they were genuinely ill last year, while more than half delayed seeking medical advice because they did not want to take time off work.
A survey of 2,496 workers by employee benefits and insurance provider Personal Group and online doctor service videoDoc found that three quarters of employees went to work last year when they should have taken sick leave. Half of women felt pressured to work while ill, compared with 38.5% of men.
Some 52% overall postponed seeking medical advice because they did not want to take time off work, while 38.8% of employees discovered that they needed treatment after delaying a trip to a health professional.
Many employees avoided taking time off work to see a GP; 15.7% took unpaid leave, 17.5% took annual leave and 22.4% left work early or arrived late in order to attend a medical appointment.
Those aged 16-24 were more likely to go to work while ill than other age groups, with 86.6% having done so. A quarter of those in this age bracket had taken unpaid leave to see their GP, or had lied to their employer about it.
HR was the most likely professional group to work while ill, with 83% of those in HR suggesting they had done so in the last year. Seven in 10 HR professionals delayed seeking medical advice and 70.9% felt uncomfortable taking time off while ill.
When asked if their employer was happy with them taking paid time off to see a GP, only 9% of HR personnel said their organisation accepted this, compared with 17.5% across the entire UK workforce. Almost a third of those working in HR had used their annual leave to see a GP.
Almost half (47.5%) of all workers claimed they would use an online GP service if it was quicker than seeing one in person. Seven in 10 believed organisations should offer it as a benefit to their employees.
Dr Brian McManus, medical director at videoDoc suggested that employees felt pressured to struggle into work to meet their employers’ workload demands.
“This pressure is only going to increase and so while we always recommend that people take the time to visit their GP in person, especially when they are concerned about their health, we see online doctor video consultations as an important means to circumvent time constraints in appropriate cases,” he explained.