Tom Keighley

Job security fears push sick employees into work

Fears of the current economic climate could be forcing up to a third of staff into work when sick, research suggests.

The study of 1,600, conducted by health charity Nuffield Health, found that 30% of workers are now more inclined to go to work sick as a result of the current economic climate; around half citing job security as the most important factor in their decision.

Overall, nearly three quarters of respondents said they had gone into work last year whilst sick, and more than half went in with a contagious illness such as flu or a cold in the past year.

Marcus Powell, Managing Director, Nuffield Health, Corporate Wellbeing, said: “Employees going into work sick costs business dearly, up to £15 billion a year.

“Our research shows the economic downturn has made people more likely to go into work sick often because they fear losing their job.

“This is bad for business. At Nuffield Health we work with more than 1,000 corporate clients to help them maintain a healthy workforce.

“The corporate world knows that staff well-being directly affects their profits. That is why more and more businesses are providing good clinical and fitness experts for their workers.”

The research showed those aged between 16-24 were the most likely to go into work sick, nearly half confirming they would because of the downturn.

Dr Andy Jones, Medical Director at Nuffield Health, said: “Effective health and well-being is about helping people to make the choices to stay physically and mentally fit.

“Presenteeism means those who are ill go into work sick, possibly infecting others. Any doctor would advise workers to stay at home and rest if they are unwell.”

The sectors feeling the most pressure to go into work sick were the retail industry, followed by manufacturing then education.

Women indicated they were slightly more likely than men to go in, and those earning £20,000 represented the income bracket most likely to work while sick.

Separate research from Aston University in 2010 revealed the cost of presenteeism to be £15 billion annually, almost twice the cost of absenteeism, according to the Economic and Social Research Council.

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