One in five Brits never considers taking a day off sick even when they’re genuinely ill, according to new research released today by SCA, one of the world’s leading hygiene companies.

A fifth of workers (19%) say taking time off to recuperate is not an option, citing colleague and managers reactions as concerns. This is in spite of recent pandemics that have led to around one in three workers saying they are more aware of hygiene issues at work than ever before.

The survey also revealed that 64% of Brits believe ill colleagues should stay at home to stop germs spreading but they are clearly not practicing what they preach.  Even those who are genuinely unwell are worried about sounding nervous on the phone (26%) when they call in, or the heavy workload they have waiting for them at work (32%) when they return.

But battling in when poorly can make things worse, with one in ten believing that their work place hygiene contributes directly to ill-health. Hotspots for germs include our computer keyboard which came out as the highest percentage in terms of office equipment considered to be unhygienic.  A shocking 17% of workers admit to never cleaning their keyboard and a 20% never clean their mouse!

Rolf Anderson, Senior Hygiene Advisor at SCA commented:

“Both employers and employees must act responsibly to curb the spreading of conditions such as the common cold, stomach flu and influenza in the work place. Employers should provide well-equipped washrooms with access to anti-bacterial soap and single-use paper towels. It is also important that employees show respect for their colleagues and stay home from work when they are sick – this would benefit both parties from both a health and a financial perspective.”

Employment expert John Lees comments:

“People worry about phoning in sick as they feel it can be misinterpreted as a lack of loyalty of commitment to the job.  It is important however, that when employees really are sick, that they consider the effects coming into the office could have on other staff members and ultimately their employer, by spreading germs amongst the workforce.”

The research, which was undertaken to support the SCA 2010 ‘Hygiene Matters’ report*, also found that only 1 in 5 workplaces are providing their workers with basics such as antibacterial wipes.

Meanwhile, a quarter of workers (23%) said our colleagues leave the workplace in a worse condition than they would their own homes. A similar number say they are frequently forced to take steps to make their workplace more hygienic by cleaning up after colleagues in the kitchen or bathroom.

SCA’s 2010 ‘Hygiene Matters’ report comprises more detailed research into worldwide cleanliness and hygiene with a focus on nine countries including the UK. It was commissioned to provide a greater understanding of personal-hygiene attitudes and behaviours worldwide, and follows on from the report published in 2009.