Workers took double number of sick days in 2020

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The average employee called in sick four times in 2020 – almost double the number of sick days taken in 2019 (2.6), a survey has found.

Although 2020 saw employees working through the Covid-19 pandemic, the virus was not among the 10 most common reasons for sickness absence, according to Instantprint’s survey.

Instead, the flu (22%), cold/cough (18%) and headaches and migraines (12%) were the most common causes behind sick days taken by UK employees in 2020.

Asked what they felt the most valid reasons were for calling in sick during the pandemic, flu was cited by 64% of the 1,000 people polled. Death of a family member (53%) and Covid-19 and related illnesses (53%) were also seen as valid reasons.

The Instantprint poll’s suggestion that ‘flu’ was a main cause of absence is, however, at odds with other research which has suggested that, because flu is less transmissible than Covid-19, it was all but wiped out last year in the UK by the restrictions and infection control measures put in place for the pandemic.

Rearch carried out for The Sunday Times newspaper earlier this year, for example, suggested UK flu rates had fallen by some 95% in 2020.

Even in the wake of the pandemic, the Instagram poll found 22% of respondents said it would take “a lot” for them to call in sick and 21% said they are now less likely to call in sick than before and, if they had to, it would only be for more serious illnesses.

Fifteen per cent believed there was now more pressure on them to go into work, even when unwell. A further 17% stated that unless they’re suffering from Covid-19, or an equally as serious illness, then there is likely to be pressure for them to not take a time off.

Angela Hunter, head of team experience at Instantprint, said: “After what seems like the longest and most unpredictable year, we were eager to revisit our earlier study which was conducted prior to the pandemic taking hold and examined sick day stigma encountered by UK employees to gauge how this has changed.

“When comparing just some of the key findings, it is encouraging to see the quite significant drops in numbers surrounding the pressure felt by UK employees when calling in sick.

“As a business, we believe that our employees’ health and wellbeing is an integral part of a happy and healthy workforce. We’ve seen that the pandemic has especially impacted mental health and our team has benefited from having qualified mental health first aiders on hand to support them during this difficult time.

“We would encourage any business to ensure their staff feel 100% comfortable about taking a day off for rest and recovery when required, without feeling any pressure to do the opposite.”

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