A recent study of British workers by Aviva Insurance has found that around 70% of those surveyed have attended work while unwell. The report suggests that most employees continued to attend work when suffering from coughs, colds and other minor ailments.
Many staff surveyed felt that their employers put the performance of the company over their health and wellbeing and that there is a culture of pressure to attend work while unwell.
The survey did find, however, that employees who continue to work through illness may be less productive, and that they may spread illness to colleagues causing some to be absent. The survey concluded that having unwell employees in the workplace was a “false economy” for employers as the knock on effect of one unwell member of staff attending could impact multiple staff members, leading to a much larger loss of productivity than if the employee who was ill simply stayed at home until better.
Aviva’s report considered that Britain’s presenteeism culture has led to this approach being adopted by many workers and poses a genuine threat to business in the event of illness spreading, and also has a negative impact on staff morale.
In 2018, the number of sick days taken by workers fell to the lowest levels in 25 years. The statistics suggest that currently about 137 million working days are lost from illness, significantly less than the highest recorded year (1999) where there were 185 million lost days even though there has been a substantial increase in the number of people in the workforce over that period.