Is There Still a Stigma for Sick Days at Work?

Sick days are an entitlement for all employees in the UK. Taking sick leave is something that is encouraged by HR when an employee is genuinely sick or needs to take a day off for their mental health or well-being.

Due to its importance, HR takes this very seriously and may track the data in case sick days are being misused. However, if you have a genuine reason, you are encouraged to take them.

One reason this data is analysed is to prevent a domino effect where one person goes off sick, and another must pick up their slack which causes them to be overworked and potentially go off sick. This could continue through multiple employees if not identified quickly.

In a study by popular online printing company instantprint in 2020, having the flu was the most given reason for calling in sick, followed by a cough/cold/sniffles.

Reasons Why Employees Will Not Take Sick Leave

Reasons Why Employees Will Not Take Sick Leave

Before the pandemic, 22% of respondents to the survey said it would take a lot for them to call in sick, and 21% said they would only call in sick for very serious matters, even in the wake of the pandemic. A possible explanation for this is that more people can work from home rather than in an office. This reduces the fear of infecting people both in the office and on a commute.

Some employees report feeling pressured to go to work even when unwell. Instantprint found that this figure was 15%. Another 17% of participants said that unless they had COVID or another serious illness like mental stress, then they felt as though they cannot take time off to recover.

On the opposite end of the scale, 30% don’t feel any pressure around feeling unwell and taking time off.

Calling in sick is an anxiety-inducing task for many people. It seems there is a fear of not being believed, leading people to go to work even when they feel like they shouldn’t. Workers also worry about letting their colleagues down and not hitting their targets in the compressed hours and they worry about constructive dismissals.

Do People Still Fake It?

Do People Still Fake It?

As much as calling sick when you don’t need it is tempting, instantprint’s survey found that only 9% do. Whilst this is a lower figure than you might expect, it is worth remembering that this can lead to disciplinary action at work if you are discovered to have pulled a sickie repeatedly.

These results do vary by city, though. Belfast, London, and Southampton are the top three cities for people taking unnecessary sick days. A whopping third of Belfast workers confessed to regularly taking time off as sick days when they shouldn’t. London and Southampton had slightly lower figures of 14% and 19% respectively.

On the flip side, employees in Norwich, Sheffield, and Edinburgh all had 50% of respondents saying that they had never faked an illness to get a day off.

However, Steel City had the highest average of sick days, with staff taking 5.4 days off due to illness over 2020. It seems Glaswegians may be hardier as they only had an average of 3.2 working days in 2020.

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