Sick days are falling but at what cost?



Sick days are falling but at what cost?


May 16th saw the release of the fourth edition of the Aviva Working Lives Report, which examines the attitudes and experiences of employers and employees on issues affecting the present and future of the UK workplace.


According to the report, seven in ten UK employees admit to attending work while unwell when they should have taken the day off. In contrast, 23% of those surveyed admitted to feigning illness to take the day off, indicating that UK employees are three times as likely to attend work as ‘pull a sickie’.

One symptom of ‘presenteeism’ is most prevalent in the private sector, with 41% of employees fearful of taking time off due to the heavy workload upon their return. By continuing to work throughout their ill health, employees are actually more likely to be less productive as a consequence, and could end up infecting other employees in the business.

Sick days taken in the UK fell to their lowest on record to 4.3 days in 2016, compared to 7.2 days in 1993. But is this really a benefit for employers?

Grahame Davies, head of business at Opsium Employer Support, said:

“Businesses will feel encouraged that the number of sick days have fallen, but by encouraging employees to remain home and resting when they are genuinely ill, there is a better chance of them recovering in a shorter time frame. As the Aviva report suggests, employees that force themselves into work while ill are less productive, take longer to recover and could infect the rest of the team.

“Tackling absenteeism is about discovering the root cause of an absence and finding ways you can work with your employees to find a solution. One area for businesses to concentrate on is wellbeing initiatives as these can boost morale, productivity and reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace.”

Health and wellbeing

Grahame’s advice is echoed in Aviva’s findings, with employees who receive health and wellbeing benefits found to be 41% happier, with 32% feeling an improved morale and 30% made to feel more productive.

Flexible working was also a key factor in the health and wellbeing of employees, with 68% saying they felt happier in a role as a result of flexible hours.

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