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July 15, 2010

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Research – UK workers pull the most ‘sickies’ in Europe

A Europe-wide survey of sickness absence has found that employees in the UK take more non-genuine ‘sickies’ than workers in other countries.

Employee risk and benefits management firm Aon Consulting warned that the UK economy is suffering as a result of the 35 million sick days taken each year for person reasons rather than for a genuine illness.

In response to its survey of more than 7500 workers from across Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, more than one in five of those questioned here said the last time they took a day off from work as sick leave they were only feigning illness.

Brits are more than four times as likely to feign illness to get time off work than Europe’s most honest workforce, the Danish. Just 4 per cent of Danes took their last sick day for a fabricated illness, compared with 21 per cent of UK workers.

Overall, the UK accounts for more than a quarter of the 122 million ‘sickies’ pulled across Europe and the number is expected to increase this year, owing to people taking time off work to watch the World Cup.

This research is part of the Aon Consulting European Employee Benefits Benchmark, which focuses on the views of workers across Europe on topics such as retirement, employee benefits and other pension-related issues. However, these latest results are somewhat at odds with the EEF’s recent survey of sickness absence within the UK manufacturing workforce, which found that the rate has fallen over the last three years, and that almost half of employees took no sick days at all in 2009.

The results are also more damning of UK workers than those of the annual CBI sickness absence survey, released in June, which put the total number of ‘bogus’ sick days taken at 27 million.
Peter Abelskamp, director of health and benefits EMEA at Aon Consulting, commented: “Over 35 million days taken as fictitious sick leave is costing the UK economy millions and these are probably conservative figures, considering the number of people who don’t admit to faking sickness. 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.”

He added:“52 per cent of Brits say they would not feel forced to take a day as sick leave if they could just be honest and have access to flexible working hours, or ‘social days’. Of course, employers should also not ignore the fact that 16 per cent of people say that more interesting work would keep them in the office.
According to the research the top five things that would encourage UK workers to take less time off work are:

  • Provision of flexible working (29 per cent)
  • Substantial cash incentive (28 per cent)
  • ‘Social days’ for non-medical, personal reasons (23 per cent)
  • More interesting work (16 per cent)         
  • Reduced payment in case of sick leave (15 per cent)

Aon Consulting recently launched the European Sick Leave Index, allowing companies to measure the cost of sickness and absence and compare it to their national averages.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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