A third of UK workers admit pulling a sickie

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But more than half of employees go into work when they are actually ill.
New research by comparison site Confused.com reveals:

  • A third of UK workers have pulled a sickie
  • More than one in 10 workers has missed work due to a hangover
  • But ‘presenteeism’ is more of a worry than faking illness: 55% of Brits have gone into work when they felt too ill to be there

More than a third of workers – 35 per cent – admit having lied to their boss about the reason they have missed work, according to a study by Confused.com*. Popular excuses workers use to pull the wool over their employer’s eyes include flu, stomach aches, diarrhoea and bad backs. However, the astonishing number of people who still go into work when they are actually unwell implies a dangerous culture of ‘presenteeism’, say insurance experts at Confused.com.

The poll of 2,000 UK workers also reveals the top five professions where people are more likely to make up an excuse to their boss about missing work. These are call centres (54 per cent), utilities (47 per cent), the voluntary sector (45 per cent), health (43 per cent) and fashion and design (42 per cent).

Meanwhile it also highlights the regions where workers fib the most too. These are East Anglia (40 per cent), the East Midlands (38 per cent), the North East (37 per cent) Yorkshire and the Humber (37 per cent), and the South East (37 per cent).

Despite many employees making up excuses to have a day off, many more still soldier on and go in to work despite feeling unwell. More than half – 55 per cent – of people polled said they had gone into work when they felt too ill to do so because they were worried about what their boss or colleagues would think.

Confused.com is warning UK workers to consider what protection they have in place in case long-term illness does strike. Matt Lloyd, Head of Life Insurance at Confused.com, said: “Our research suggests that the culture of turning up to work ill is more of a threat than ‘pulling a sickie’. It is very worrying that workers are not prioritising their own health and feel that they cannot take a day off sick when they are genuinely unwell.”

Matt Lloyd continued: “With many people experiencing a lack of job security over the last few years, it’s a really important time to think about protection products, such as income protection and critical illness cover, especially if you have dependents such as children or you have regular payments to make such as a mortgage.”

The research also shows that women are more likely to worry than men about taking time off sick – 64 per cent say they have been into work when they felt ill because they were afraid their boss wouldn’t believe them. Nearly half – 47 per cent – of men said the same thing.

More than one in 10 workers in the UK has missed work due to a hangover, according to the study. People from the North East are most likely to miss work after a heavy night out – 15 per cent of workers polled from the region said they had missed work because they were hungover.

Other common reasons why people had missed work include simply staying in bed to catch up on sleep (10 per cent).

*Survey of 2,000 UK adult workers carried out in September 2012 by OnePoll on behalf of Confused.com.

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  1. Most offices have staff that come to work when feeling unwell as well as the odd one that ‘phones in’ ill on what feels like an all too regular basis – the suggestion in the report that this shows a dangerous culture of “presenteeism” is a bit OTT.

    To show my point – In my experience, in cases of extreme bad weather it’s the same people who make that extra bit of effort to get into work in that scenario as go to work when not feeling well. My suggestion would be that most employees are not exhibiting a “dangerous culture” but exhibiting the commendable traits of being consciencious to colleagues and customers and showing loyalty.

    Many businesses operate with less staff than may have been the case a few years ago and therefore every missing member of staff puts more strain on those who have gone the extra mile in coming to work – why not celebrate and reward conscienciousness and loyalty of employees rather that label it a “dangerous culture”

  2. Thank you for a great piece. Interested to see those facts from confused.com. As an HR leader in the Call Centre profession, I can completely agree with the findings. We often see trends quite quickly with new employees and sickies! A lot of individuals still see call centre roles as stepping stones, which can be a frustration when it comes to staffing.

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