When in a full-time office job, falling ill can be nothing more than an inconvenience. If you take a day off, your to-do list and email inbox will likely pile up and become overwhelming on your return, and often your responsibilities are passed on to others to keep the ball rolling.

While normally procedures are put in place to ensure things are rescheduled and covered at the workplace, many still don’t take the sick days they’re entitled to. A new survey from Canada Life Group revealed that 7 million UK workers say they wouldn’t take a sick day unless they were so ill they have to be hospitalised.

Nine in ten (89%) workers said they’d gone into work feeling unwell; 47% would come into work with a sickness/stomach bug and a whopping 55% would go into work if suffering with the flu.

These results are especially concerning, showing how likely it is that illnesses can be spread within an office. In fact, nearly half, at 48%, say they’ve caught an illness from a colleague at least once.

When asked why sick employees still dragged themselves to their desk to work through their illness, most answers were related to workload, financial concerns and job security; see below the results:

Reasons why employees have come into work when ill:
  • 69%: “Even though I felt unwell, I didn’t think it was serious enough to warrant a day off.”
  • 34%: “My workload is too great for me to have time off, even if I feel unwell.”
  • 22%: “I worry about the financial implications of taking time off.”
  • 12%: “Other colleagues/senior members of staff make me feel guilty for taking time off even if I’m ill.”
  • 11%: “I don’t feel secure enough in my job/I feel too threatened by the risk of redundancy to take time off for illness.”
  • 3%: “I didn’t think I would be able to secure a doctor’s note.”
The results also revealed that UK workers are overly concerned about how their actions will affect how colleagues perceive them; 17% were worried that they’d come across as weak, 14% didn’t want to be seen as lazy, and 13% were concerned about being viewed an undedicated.

This guilt that would come from taking a sick day is what stops so many employees taking days off, however, it could also be down to lack of awareness. 43% of respondents said they were unaware of any sickness absence support, and 14% are certain that their employers don’t offer anything.

Marketing Director at Canada Life Group, Paul Avis, comments:

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

“One of the key problems appears to be that many employees don’t think their illnesses are serious enough to warrant taking time off. Employers must do more to show they are serious about supporting employee health.”

For our advice for managing illness-related absence, read our post from last week here.


Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our Content Writer.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with a love of writing about anything and everything in tow.
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