A recent blog post from revealed that we may be seeing the end of the sickie. If you’ve ever caught a bug or a cold because someone in your office hauled themselves into work when they should have stayed home, this probably won’t be the best news you’ve ever heard.
Unfortunately, the number of days lost to illness, or “sickie” days are falling in the UK- figures released show that each UK worker lost an average of just over four days due to sickness last year. This is the lowest figure reported since these records began, and it’s unlikely to be due to Brits becoming healthier.
Records were first taken in 1993, and the equivalent time off was 7.2 days for each worker.
Almost a quarter of this time of was due to illnesses like colds and coughs, although neck and back pain were also popular reasons to stay home (probably caused by long days spent hunched over their computers). Anxiety, depression, and stress were also high, and this caused the UK to be up near the top of what’s known as the “International Sickness League.” Luckily, the UK wasn’t number one on this table- that title went to Australia.
People in Scotland and Wales took the most time off, at 2.5% and 2.6% of their total working days respectively. Those living in London took the least amount of time off, with just 1.4%.
The private sector had just 1.7% recorded, while the public sector had 2.9%. For those who assume people who work for themselves have it easy, they would be wrong- the self-employed had a rate of just 1.4% compared to employees who had a rate of 2.1%.
This won’t surprise many people, but smokers had a much higher absence rate (2.5%) compared to people who don’t smoke (1.6%).
Brendan Freeman is an ONS statistician, and he says that there has been a steady decline in working days lost since 2003, particularly during the economic downturn.
If anything, this trend shows that some Brits are worried about losing their jobs if they don’t go into work. Frances O’Grady is the TUC General Secretary, and she says that the idea that UK workers are throwing sickies all the time is a myth. In reality, people are more likely to tough it out and go into work when they’re sick compared to staying at home when they’re not.
Unfortunately, this could be a sign that the UK is becoming more like the US, a country that’s known for long working hours and few sick days. The United States is seeing a belief that sickness is a weakness, and employees aren’t “allowed” to be sick- something that was seen when Hillary Clinton arrived at a commemoration ceremony for 9/11 the day after she was diagnosed with pneumonia.
This is due to a culture of “suffer through it.” The United States doesn’t have guaranteed sick pay, meaning if you don’t go into work, you lose that day of pay- something that millions of people can’t afford to do.
One thing is for sure, if you’re sick and you stay home, the people sitting next to you in the office are likely to appreciate you for it.