Most British workers have stopped taking sick days, survey finds

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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Are you of the mentality that wild horses couldn’t keep you away from the office? You are not alone.

According to the results of a new study, us Brits are so wedded to our jobs that we wouldn’t let a little thing like being sick stand in the way of getting to work.

In fact, a massive 70% of us would still choose to go to work rather than call in sick when we’re feeling unwell.

The report, released today by insurance company Aviva, found that seven out of 10 employees working in private firms – which equates to a not-insignificant 18 million of us –have headed into work despite being unwell.

So why are we all dragging ourselves into work when we’re under the weather?

The survey found that two in five employees believed their employer considered the performance of the company as more important than their health and wellbeing, which could lead them to feel pressurised to make into work.

Adding to this, over 40% of employees admitted they were worried about their work piling up if they called in sick.

Unsurprisingly, however, making a beeline for your desk when you feel unwell is probably not the wisest move.

Describing it as a “false economy”, Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva UK Health, told The Independent, “Businesses need to ensure they create a working culture whereby people do not feel pressurised into coming to work when they are unwell, safe in the knowledge their absence can be effectively managed.”

Not convinced?

"Presenteeism, driven in part by an increased 'always-on' culture, poses a genuine threat to overall business performance through the adverse impact on productivity and morale in the workplace," Wright added.

The results of the study, which surveyed some 2,000 people, help to explain the overall drop in sick days taken in the UK.

Last year, UK workers took an average of 4.3 days off work due to illness, the lowest number since records began.

And back in the heady days of 1993, we took almost twice as many sick days a year, with the average number coming in at 7.2 days per employee, according to the Office for National Statistics.

If you need any convincing to call in sick next time you’re feeling ill, have a read of Lucy Mangan’s column about sick days being the new “mini break”, or take heed of Lena Dunham’s wise words and repeat after me: “We can only pull off a high wire act for so long before gravity does its job.”

Images: iStock


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter