1 in 4 UK workers wouldn’t take a sick day unless hospitalised

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Almost a quarter (23%) of UK workers – around seven million people – say they would only take time off work if they were hospitalised and had no other choice.

And nine in ten (89%) UK workers say they’ve gone into work when feeling ill, according to a Canada Life survey.

The issue has implications beyond the health of the employee struggling into work. 47% of respondents said they would go into the office with a stomach bug and more than half (55%) would go into work if they had the flu – despite the high chance of this illness spreading to their co-workers.

Indeed, half (48%) of workers say they have become unwell due to a colleague’s illness on more than one occasion.

The main reason cited for going into work when unwell was the feeling that the illness didn’t warrant a day off - according to 69% of those questioned.

Meanwhile, over a third (34%) blamed high workloads, and 22% say they were motivated by financial concerns.

Top reasons why employees have come into work when ill:

Even though I felt unwell, I didn’t think it was serious enough to warrant a day off - 69%

My workload is too great for me to have time off, even if I feel unwell - 34%

I worry about the financial implications of taking time off - 22%

Other colleagues/senior members of staff make me feel guilty for taking time off even if I’m ill - 12%

I don’t feel secure enough in my job/I feel too threatened by the risk of redundancy to take time off for illness - 11%

I didn’t think I would be able to secure a doctor’s note - 3%

Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said: “It is incredibly worrying it would take something as serious as being hospitalised to dissuade a quarter of British employees from going into work, showing that a “stiff upper lip” culture of presenteeism still pervades the British workforce.

“People suffering from illnesses like flu and stomach bugs are unlikely to be productive and risk making their colleagues unwell as well by struggling into work.

“We need to be clearer with employees - they should only come into work when fully fit and able to do so, be it physically or mentally.”