We’re on the sick – but don’t blame Covid

woman with stomach pains

The average number of sick days taken in the UK business community has almost doubled over the past year – and it has nothing to do with anything related to the pandemic..

That was one of many mixed messages to emerge from research that compared changing attitudes over the past two years and demonstrates changing attitudes towards unscheduled time off.

The latest findings came in a new survey by online printing specialists, instantprint, which revisited a previous study on the same topic covering 2019.

The new survey found that the average number of sick days taken by employees across the rest of the year was four out of 256 possible working days. The previous survey revealed an average of 2.6 days.

The findings highlight the fact that, although we are less likely to call in sick, those who have needed time off this year have needed a more extended break to recover from their illness.

However, not everyone who’s calling in sick is doing so truthfully. One in ten even admitted that they do so on a regular basis, despite not actually being unwell.

Worst offenders were in Belfast where a third admitted that they regularly “pull a sickie”, beating Southampton’s 19 per cent and London 14 per cent.

It is encouraging to see the quite significant drops in numbers surrounding the pressure felt by UK employees when calling in sick

And for bosses looking for a fully fit workforce, Norwich, Sheffield and Edinburgh emerged as the cities where residents were found to be least likely to fake an illness, with half of those surveyed within each city stating that they “would never do so”.

Despite being faced with a global pandemic, Covid-19 was not found to be one of the top 10 reasons though. Instead, the flu (22%), the sniffles (18%) and headaches and migraines (12%) were the most common causes behind sick days.

The most surprising finding was that just half of those surveyed felt as though a trip to A&E or being hospitalised was an acceptable excuse when calling in sick.

Angela Hunter, Head of Team Experience said: “After what seems like the longest and most unpredictable year, we were eager to revisit our earlier study which was conducted prior to the pandemic taking hold and examined sick day stigma encountered by UK employees to gauge how this has changed.

“When comparing just some of the key findings, it is encouraging to see the quite significant drops in numbers surrounding the pressure felt by UK employees when calling in sick.

“We would encourage any business to ensure their staff feel 100% comfortable about taking a day off for rest and recovery when required, without feeling any pressure to do the opposite.”