As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, more than one in five (23%) Britons have felt in the past, or would feel, worried about their finances if they were too ill to go to work and had to call in sick, according to findings from MetLife UK, with women particularly impacted by financial worries.

Research from MetLife UK highlights just how heavily financial concerns are weighing on people’s minds, particularly when they’re unwell. Women were found to be affected most with more than a quarter (28%) stating that they would be anxious about losing out financially if they were to take a sick day – compared to less than a fifth (18%) of men.

Women were also significantly more likely to worry about their colleagues in their absence. More than two in five (41%) women said they had guilt for seemingly leaving their colleagues in the lurch over an unforeseen absence, while less than a quarter (23%) of men felt the same way.

 

Sick leave as the most valued benefit

Paid sick leave tops the list of benefits and incentives that matter most to British employees, according to new research by CIPHR.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, after two years of pandemic-led disruption and rising living costs, among the most popular employee benefits are those which help supplement squeezed incomes, support people’s health, and encourage work-life balance.

So, it is important that employees feel comfortable taking this much needed sick leave.

 

Additional concerns

In addition, MetLife’s findings showed UK adults fret over additional stresses surrounding taking a sick day. A fifth (21%) said they would be worried their boss or other colleagues would not believe they are actually unwell if they took a day off, and almost the same number (20%) said they worry about the amount of work they will have to come back to.

However, not all employees feel plagued with worry if they need to take a day off. One in six (17%) workers believe they would be supported by their colleagues, and the same number (17%) feel they could take the time they needed to recover fully.

 

A sick pay reform

A report by the CIPD into sick pay reform estimates that millions of workers are missing out on receiving even the minimum level of statutory sick pay (SSP) when they are too ill to work, due to earning too little (under £120 a week) to qualify for it or being self-employed. Although most UK employers do pay SSP, just 62 percent of the employers that the CIPD surveyed offer all their employees occupational sick pay (which pays more than SSP). This mirrors the findings of a previous CIPHR survey, which showed that 63 percent of organisations offer staff contractual sick pay. A further 64 percent reported providing mental health and wellbeing support to their employees.

 

What can managers and employers do to calm these concerns?

“Employees should always feel that they can take time off sick when they’re not feeling their best. However, it is a delicate balance. Mental health issues have come to the forefront since the start of the pandemic and often these aren’t always visible. Whilst the individual may prefer to be at home, being in the office can be more beneficial to them,” says, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife, Adrian Matthews.

Often, with a supportive employer and line manager, they can be more closely observed and supported from the office. Burn out too is a gradual impact, so it’s important employers have an open and trusting culture to allow staff time off when it is needed to minimise a longer-term pattern and challenge occurring,” adds Mr Matthews.

“In addition to sick days, many employers will also offer 24/7 access to employee assistance programmes which are intended to help employees with personal problems which can impact their work, health and wellbeing. This can range from counselling as well as financial wellbeing support as well as programmes to improve an employee’s health. Increased pressure on our finances at the moment can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety that can build if employees don’t know where to turn for help. Communicating these benefits, which can provide a vital lifeline and impartial view, will ensure that staff always have a place to turn to for confidential advice,” says Mr Matthews.

“Having just lived through the pandemic, health, sickness, and the transmission of illness has never been more widely discussed. Employers should work hard to ensure their employees feel supported when they’re ill so they feel they can take the time off they need to feel better and are not creating an environment which relies on presenteeism and employees having to hide how they’re really feeling,” adds Mr Matthews.