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Why staff show up to work sick

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With only a few days to go until the beginning of December, the most popular month for staff to call in sick is upon us. But don’t be surprised if you spot some of your employees sitting at their desks looking red-nosed and miserable, as not all staff stay home when they’re sick.

This year’s Cold and Flu Survey conducted by Fisherman’s Friend found that the average UK worker took just 1.67 days off in the last year for minor ailments. Out of the 2,000 people surveyed, an impressive 51% indicated they did not take a single day off due to minor ailments in the last year.

Unfortunately, the low numbers are not necessarily due to workers’ amazing health, as respondents on average reported suffering with three bouts of illness severe enough to warrant time off work. When asked, 74% confirmed to have gone into work despite feeling ill enough to stay home.

When commenting on the reasons for coming into work while sick, not wanting to let colleagues down was at the top of the list with 26% of respondents saying this was a contributing factor. Meanwhile, 23% said concerns over job security played a role in the decision to not call in sick.

The study found that female workers were most concerned about letting their colleagues down – 31% compared with 19% of men, while workers aged 18-24 were most likely to take less time off to support colleagues (40%).

Recently, a survey by OfficeTeam presented similar findings, with an even higher percentage (85%) of employees going into work when they felt sick. Interestingly, the same survey found that 42% of employees strongly dislike it when a colleague comes into work sick, especially if they proceed to sneeze or cough without covering their mouth.

The latest survey takes it one step further, with two out of three full time workers claiming they have actuallty become ill in the last year because of co-workers who refused to stay at home.

In Hong Kong, a further potential reason for some employees to turn up to work while under the weather could be some company’s requirement that staff present a doctor’s note upon return to work.

Although understandable in an attempt to combat absenteeism, the measure arguably forces employees suffering a severe cold or the flu to get dressed and go outside, as opposed to staying in bed to rest and recover. If they have to go outside anyway, they might as well venture into the office, some might think.

Perhaps it’s time for HR professionals to take a stand on the issue and make it clear to all staff, management included, that showing up to work ill isn’t going to do any good. Make sure staff understand that instead of helping their colleagues by coming into the office, they’re actally hurting them by spreading their germs around.

ALSO READ: Too many employees falling sick? Get your office in order

Photo / 123RF

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