• International Workplace
  • 5 June 2017

Sick employees at work is costlier than ‘sickies’

The average number of sick days is falling, but instead employees are coming to work unwell, being less productive and affecting the health of other employees. That’s according to Aviva’s latest Working Lives report, which reveals that UK employees are three times more likely to go to work unwell than ‘pull a sickie’.

Seven in ten (69%) UK private sector employees – equivalent to 18 million nationally – have gone to work unwell when they should have taken the day off, the report shows. This is perhaps due to the fact that workers are fearful of heavy workloads if they take time off: one in five (41%) say their work will pile up if they are off sick.

Whilst at work, more than two in five (42%) admit they often feel stressed or anxious, rising to 46% among younger workers (18-34 year olds). Employers could also be underestimating the impact stress has on their employees, as only 23% cite this as an issue.

However, Aviva’s findings also suggest that those businesses who do invest in their employees’ health and wellbeing are reaping the rewards. Of those that offer health and wellbeing benefits, more than three in four (77%) believe this has had a positive impact on the workforce. Employers also report increased happiness levels (41%) among employees with improved morale (32%) and productivity (30%) as a result of having initiatives in place to keep employees healthy.

Dr Doug Wright, Medical Director, Aviva UK Health, said:

“While every business wants the right level of resource in place, having employees who are unwell at work is a false economy. 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.

“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. Businesses should ensure they take the lead on communicating proactively to employees that it’s important to take a step back when unwell and it can be in everyone’s interest.

“Businesses can also counter such issues by ensuring they continue to explore new ways in which to improve the working experience for employees. Investment in health and wellbeing is no longer a nice to have; it must be looked on as a priority.”


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