Workshy Brits throw 35m sickies a year

Sickies in the UK account for more than a quarter of the European total, according to a new report.

Last Updated: 16 May 2011

As the axe continues to swing in both the public and private sectors, people are understandably fretting about losing their jobs – so you might think they would be less likely to pull a sickie, right? Wrong. A new poll by Aon Consulting has found that one in five employees feigned an illness the last time they took a day of work as sick leave. And us Brits are the worst culprits in Europe, accounting for more than a fifth of the overall European total. Tut, tut.
In total, the research, based on interviews with 7,500 workers in ten European countries, found that British workers are absent from work for more than 170m days a year, but only half said they took the time off for a bonafide reason – i.e. they were suffering from a physical or mental illness. One in five said they were absent because of a personal issue, such as the break-up of a relationship or because they had to let a repairman into their home.
However, not all workers took unsolicited time off to dry their tears or let the plumber in - thousands of workers took ‘sickies’ to look after family and friends, the group said. Ah, bless.

Either way, it might not come as too much of a shock that Brits are the biggest slackers in Europe: UK employees are more than four times as likely to fake an illness compared to Europe’s most honest workers in Denmark, the survey found. Just 4% of Danes took their last sick day for a fictitious illness, compared to 21% of Brits.

But it’s important to remember that this may be due, at least in part, to the culture of presenteeism that prevails in the UK – perhaps the Danes just say they need to be at home for the boiler man, rather than fabricating an exotic illness to appease their boss.
Even so, these figures only include those who were willing to ‘fess up – the real number of UK workers pulling sickies could be much higher. And all of this comes at a huge cost to business in the UK: Peter Abelskamp of Aon Consulting warned it is costs the economy ‘millions’ every year. He recommended that businesses take steps to address the problem. ‘Employers would be well advised to tackle the issues of sickness and workplace absence head on, as these seriously impact efficiency and hit their balance sheets.’
Incentives that might encourage British workers to improve their attendance in the office range from the introduction of flexible working and the right to ‘social days’ (whatever they may be) to ‘more interesting work’.

It’s a tricky problem, but one well worth the effort to crack – people who actually want to come to work are much more likely to be productive when they are there than those who would rather be somewhere else, after all...

In today's bulletin:

BA, Iberia and AA tie-up earns its wings
Whither Ocado as Fairfield fails to float
Workshy Brits throw 35m sickies a year
Apple drops the call
Not such a jolly holiday for cash-strapped Brits

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Could coronavirus lead to gender equality?

Opinion: Enforced home-working and home-schooling could change the lives of working women, and the business...

Mike Ashley: Does it matter if the public hates you right now?

The Sports Direct founder’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn criticism, but in the...

4 films to keep you sane during the coronavirus lockdown

Cirrus CEO Simon Hayward shares some choices to put things in perspective.

Pandemic ends public love affair with Richard Branson et al

Opinion: The larger-than-life corporate mavericks who rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s suddenly...

The Squiggly Career: How to be a chief strengths spotter

When leading remotely, it's more important than ever to make sure your people spend their...

"Blind CVs don't improve your access to talent"

Opinion: If you want to hire socially mobile go-getters, you need to know the context...