MetLife UK finds 18% of employees failed to call in sick to avoid potential confrontation

According to the latest research commissioned by MetLife, 36% of employees in the UK chose not to call in sick as they didn’t think there was anyone to cover their workload.

Related topics:  MetLife UK,  Employee Benefits
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
9th May 2024
MetLife Employee Benefits
"When sickness or injury strikes, resting to recover should be the first thought on individuals’ minds, but instead many feel anxious and worried, particularly when it comes to any implications on their workload."
- Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK

Of those surveyed (2,009), almost three in five (59%) employees in the UK said they haven’t taken time off work due to ill-health or injury, despite needing to. When asked why they’d failed to call in sick, 36% said they didn’t think there was anyone to cover them, followed by not wanting to miss work (28%), and having a deadline to meet (16%).

Meanwhile, 27% said they didn’t want to impact their colleagues’ workload, and 26% worried they wouldn’t be paid. Concerningly, 18% thought their superior would tell them off if they took time off due to ill-health or injury.

MetLife also explored how employees have previously felt or would feel should they call in sick. Over a quarter (26%) said they’ve felt or would feel guilty that colleagues had to cover their workload, while 17% were concerned about the amount of work they’d be returning to. Almost one in five (19%) said they thought nobody would believe they were poorly, and 17% felt or would feel anxious about losing out financially.

Only 12% said they felt or would feel supported by colleagues, while 87% said they didn’t think their superior had or would be concerned that they were unwell or injured.

“With many now hybrid working, there is a sense of an ‘always on’ culture, with no physical barrier restricting access to work. This means that a large proportion of the UK workforce continues to work when perhaps they shouldn’t,” explained Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK. He believes that employees who prioritise presenteeism in the office, more often than not, find it leads to absenteeism in the long run.

“This drive to work when illness strikes can prolong recovery, leading to employees suffering burnout later on which can quickly lead to an unproductive workforce for employers,” he said.

Therefore, it’s important that employers allow staff to take the time needed to recover and that employees feel supported. Adrian said employers “must prioritise having the right products and offerings in place that allow employees access to GPs 24/7, stress the importance of early intervention and rehabilitation, as well as offering Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs).”

“Having these offerings in place will ensure employees feel protected and able to take the time off work needed to recover fully,” he concluded.

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