UK employees more likely to go to work unwell than ‘pull a sickie’

The report examines the attitudes and experiences of employers and employees on issues affecting the present and future of the UK workplace

The fourth edition of the Aviva Working Lives Report, released, shows that seven in ten UK employees – equivalent to 18 million nationally – have gone to work feeling unwell when they should have taken the day off.

In contrast, less than a quarter (23%) say they have taken a day off work sick when they were not actually unwell, indicating that UK employees are three times more likely to go to work unwell than they are to ‘pull a sickie’.

The report – which examines the attitudes and experiences of employers and employees on issues affecting the present and future of the UK workplace – also carries a wake-up call to businesses, as more than two in five (43%) employees feel their employer puts the results of the company ahead of their health and wellbeing.

In what may be a surprise to employers, Aviva’s findings suggest private sector workers are fearful of heavy workloads if they take time off, as more than two in five (41%) say their work will pile up if they are off sick. With people continuing to work while they are unwell, it is likely that they are less productive as a consequence and in turn could also affect the health of other employees.

The worrying trend comes against the backdrop of a historic fall in the average number of sick days taken annually by UK employees, dropping to a record low of 4.3 days in 2016 compared with 7.2 days in 1993 when tracking began.

Absence Management specialist Adrian Lewis of Activ Absence said he was disappointed, but not surprised by Aviva report commenting, It seems that presenteeism and absenteeism are complete opposites, but in my experience, they both arise from poor absence management practices. Almost as soon as UK employers started to focus on the cost of absence, the knee-jerk response was to assume ‘everyone is an absentee’ and scare sick people back to work – which just swaps absence challenges for productivity challenges.

“Tackling absence is not about waving a big stick and chasing ‘lazy’ employees back to work, it is about uncovering the root causes of absence and working with your people in order to tackle them. Using absence management software alongside best HR practices is the only way to do this, it ensures that employers can manage absence effectively with an evidence-led approach to both staff management and wellness initiatives. Hopefully the report will send those managers who simply ‘toughened up’ back to the drawing board.”

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