Presenteeism persists: UK employees feel pressure to come into work sick

Written by
Changeboard Team

22 Sep 2016

22 Sep 2016 • by Changeboard Team

New research has revealed that an overwhelming majority of the UK workforce admit to coming into work while ill.

A survey of over 1,000 UK employees conducted by Canada Life has shown that 90% of workers have come into work while feeling under the weather. 

The survey found that presenteeism is most commonly driven by high workloads, with more than one if our employees (28%) feeling their workload is too great to call in sick. 17% cited feeling guilty about taking time off as a key a factor.

Paul Avis, marketing director of Canada Life Group said: “With financial pressures and excessive workloads cited as the main courses, it is clear employers need to do more to reassure that health and wellbeing is a top priority.”

There is a reluctance among employees to take time off for physical illness with over half (54%) saying they would still come into work with the flu, with 42% admitting they would come into work while displaying symptoms of a stomach virus. 

Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said they would only call in sick if they were hospitalised or had no other choice.

Worryingly, 80% wouldn’t take any time off for stress, suggesting that there is still a stigma around mental health in the workplace. Previous research from Canada Life has found that 57% of UK employees have suffered from mental health problems while in employment.

Avis added: “It is concerning that stress and mental health issues remain so overlooked, particularly as our research shows this type of illness is more common among employees than you might expect. As with physical illness, failing to tackle mental health problems can be hugely demanding not only to the individual, but to the wider business as a whole.” 

Brexit was also cited as a potential point of concern, as a third of employees feel less secure in their roles and are more likely to come into work while ill.

Avis commented: “The vote to leave the EU has thrown everything into a state of flux, so it is of little that people are now more concerned about job security.

“Now more than ever, it is crucial for employers to demonstrate they have a clear sickness absence policy in place that will not unfairly penalise anyone who takes time off for being ill.”