UK workers less likely to take a sick day than other European countries

Britain’s employees are least likely to skip work because of illness, taking just over 4 sick days off the entire year, the latest research has revealed

UK workers less likely to take a sick day than other European countries

Britain’s employees are least likely to
skip work because of illness, taking just over 4 sick days off the entire year,
the latest research has revealed

Calling in sick for work can be difficult. Whether you’re a boss or employee, people often feel guilty for having to leave the office for a day or two with the fear of letting someone down, especially when an important assignment or task is due. However, some people wouldn’t mind switching their morning alarm off for a lie in. According to new research, British workers are some of the least likely in Europe to call in sick for work.

British workers took the fourth lowest amount of sick days in Europe last year, taking just 4.4 days off for illness in the past 12 months, data from Mitrefinch, an international time and workforce management solutions provider, has revealed.

 Swiss workers took the top spot for least sick days in the year, taking on average just 1.6 days off in the past 12 months. Switzerland provides its workers a generous annual leave entitlement, with an average worker taking over five weeks holiday according statistics. Comparing that to entitled holiday leave in the UK, this makes efforts by British workers rather impressive.

However, Bulgarian workers were found most likely to call in sick among all other countries in Europe, taking an average of 22 days sick days in a year. Workers in Germany didn’t fare much better, taking 18.3 days off while those in the Czech Republic were similar, calling in sick for more than three working weeks (15.4 days).

Absences in the workplace can cause the economy millions per year, so it comes without question why some employees feel ridden with guilt and head to work even if they feel under the weather.

However, recent research has found that more than two thirds of UK workers avoid taking sick days and still go into work when feeling unwell, which reflects how certain workplace cultures and attitudes can impact the workforce.

“Workplace absences cost the UK economy a whopping £18 billion a year through lost productivity, with this figure expected to creep up to £21 billion in 2020 – so you might think that skipping the odd Monday at the office to sleep off the weekend’s excesses is no big deal, but it all adds up,” Matthew Jenkins, CEO at Mitrefinch, said. “On top of the dip in productivity, employees who repeatedly call in sick put a strain on other members of staff who have to pick up their workload, which can impact workplace morale.

“However, that’s not to say taking a sick day should be seen as a weakness or a lack of commitment. Taking time out of the office to recover from illness is integral to the productivity and growth of any successful business and the fact that more than two thirds of UK workers admit going to work when feeling sick is a serious cause for concern.”

Control and domination is still rife in offices across the UK, Lizzie Benton, culture consultant at Liberty Mind explained, saying how many workplaces run on “outdated” attitudes, using fear and control to undermine their employees which can prevent them from thriving and reaching their full potential in their roles.

Lizzie Benton, culture consultant at Liberty Mind, adds: “In Britain we still live by outdated legacy attitudes in the workplace. Fear and control are what many organisations are run by, and for employees, asking for a day off sick is like showing a weakness, or admitting a failure. We all think we should ‘keep calm and carry on’.

“It’s not just the act of taking a day off, but the repercussions this may have when an employee returns to work. Managers treating them coldly, or over-questioning their day off as if to assume they were faking it in some way.

“I think managers often behave this way because it is bred in the company culture. Attitudes and behaviours start at the top, and if you have a boss who comes in no matter how they’re feeling you create a culture where people feel they can’t take a sick day. Trust is also a key issue. There are many organisations who have trust issues with their employees and which have policies to control their people rather than help them thrive. Too many businesses still believe that people are just there for the pay cheque and will do anything to get the most out of the company. There is no empathy and a severe lack of emotional intelligence.”

High presenteeism in work means many Britons are showing up to the office – even if they are ill. If an employee is feeling unwell, it is important employers encourage them to rest and recover. Allowing staff to take the time off work can help boost productivity and worker morale – and nobody should have to feel obliged to come in to work while battling through illness.

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

Share via
Copy link