Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 November 2015

Workers too scared to take time off work if they’re sick

Published 06/10/2008

Workers in Belfast turn their back on health problems more than anyone else in the UK.

Fears of job loss amid the economic downturn are leading to classic symptoms of 'presenteeism' where people are too scared to take time off when ill.

A major new health report showed 53 precent of workers in the city have had health concerns they haven't acted on – compared to 33 percent across the UK as a whole.

And worryingly, it said 21 percent of workers would be less likely to act on health problems in an economic downturn because of job insecurity.

Almost a third — 31 percent — admitted they avoided their doctor because they feared the outcome.

Other key reasons for not going to the GP included being too busy at work (26 percent), embarrassment (26 percent), while 5 percent didn't visit because they didn't like their doctor.

Health insurance group HSA also dispelled the myths about 'man flu'.

The group said its findings showed men were less likely than women to take a day off for the common cold, and females were twice as likely to take time off for the sniffles as males.

HSA's Healthy Working Report also found that 84 percent of Belfast workers, the highest number in the UK, have felt the impact of the credit crunch outside work.

More than three quarters of Human Resource professionals questioned agreed employees were less likely to take time off sick as a result of job security worries.

HSA spokeswoman Clare Lee said: “The economic slowdown is clearly leaving people less inclined to take time off work as they are worrying about keeping their jobs.”

Professor Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University's Management School, said the research demonstrated employees were suffering from the classic symptoms of 'presenteeism'.

“This is where people are worried about their jobs so they feel they have to be at work, even when they are ill,” said Professor Cooper.

“Presenteeism usually occurs in a downturn because employees want to show commitment for fear of job loss, so they will come in earlier, stay later and come in even when they are sick.”

However the practice was counterproductive, he said. “A sick employee isn't a productive employee and invariably he or she may make wrong decisions which someone else will have to rectify later on.”

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