Sick Days are there for the Taking – The Problem of Presenteeism.

We’ve all been there at one time or another, struggling into work when we basically feel like s**t.  We sit at our desk taking whatever medication we can, whilst feeling miserable and wishing we were at home in bed.

Drained - Photo by Victoria Palacios on Unsplash

If you look at your contract of employment, you may find a section which refers to sickness, in particular to sick days.

Sick days are quite simple really, when you feel unwell, you can take time off to get well and still get paid! 

Obviously the number of sick days is limited so that the system cannot be abused, so you need to be sensible about it so don’t think this includes having a hangover!

There are a lot of old habits that are deeply embedded in the so-called modern progressive workplace; one of those is that it is frowned upon to call in sick.

Not taking a sick day is seen as some kind of badge of honour, however what do you actually gain from this dedication and ‘keep pushing’ mentality?  Does your company reward you for not taking a sick day?  Will they help when you get seriously ill?

Companies generally make you feel guilty for taking a sick day, which does not help you; you feel guilty and anxious so you do not rest properly and therefore do not get well as quickly as you could.

So, what are the consequences of taking or not taking sick days?


When you are ill, you feel pretty grim; everyone knows this and has experienced this.  The question is, do you really think that battling through will help you, or make you feel better?

If you took one or two days of rest generally you would get better quicker.

If your mind is not on your work you will make mistakes, which may lead to you getting told off by your manager, or worse still, anger a client and have them complaining about you.

‘Fighting On’ and ignoring what your body is telling you may lead to more serious illnesses, which may have longer lasting repercussions.  I never thought that I would end up in the situation I am in, unable to work and struggling every day.

The knock-on effects of this are massive, so you need to take this seriously.

My company didn’t care what happened to me, so you have to look out for yourself.

You can become more dependent on antibiotics and medication, which can have side effects.

Pills - Photo by on Unsplash

Your Colleagues:

Yes, it may be annoying having to cover for someone who is ill, but remember, they will do the same for you some time.

Do you enjoy sitting near someone who is coughing and sniffing when you are at work?

Are you happy to use the same kitchen and office facilities as them?

Yep, battling on brings all of those lovely germs into the office, and one by one everyone will get ill.  This is where sharing is definitely not caring!

When they are ill your colleagues will not be in the best of moods, which can have an effect on your mood.

Surely your colleagues would prefer to see you well than unwell? OK this might not always be the case, but they should be happy not to catch whatever it is you have.

Your Company:

The myth is that the company will lose out if you are off sick; however are they actually losing more by having you in the office?

A recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPD) stated that 86% of companies have seen a rise in ‘presenteeism’ over the past 12 months, which is an increase from 72% this time last year.

“The presence of ill people at work can be more costly to the business than their absence, not only if illness is transmitted to other colleagues, but also because ill employees are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more susceptible to costly mistakes, take longer to recover from their illness and cause lower workplace morale,” – CIPD.

This matches findings by Nottingham Business School last year that stated that the average UK employee was going to work while ill for almost two weeks a year, this cost companies more than £4,000 per employee due to lower productivity.

The CIPD’s research also showed that just a quarter of employers that had observed presenteeism among their employees had taken action to address the problem; 61% said they had not taken action and 14% said they did not know whether they had taken action.

“In 2016, almost half (48%) had taken action, so these newest figures represent a significant fall in the number of organisations who are proactive about tackling presenteeism,” – CIPD

When you are ill you will not perform as well as you normally would, your mind will not be on the job and mistakes can be made.

Spreading germs means that even more people are sick, so the long term effect on the business is greater.

Their customer’s may not receive the level of service they expect, this could lead to more complaints and even a loss of business.

As a customer, would you really want to be in contact with someone who is obviously ill?  This is especially in the case of the service industry.

Most companies say that they care for their employees, especially their health and safety, so maybe it is time for companies to be more proactive and actually look after their employees more.

Fellow Commuters:

Let’s look at the bigger picture; when you next have a cold (or man flu) and you sneeze on a tube or bus, have a look at how many people are on the same train or bus, and how many people will touch that pole you are holding on to…… enough said on that point I think……


Next time you are sick, don’t stress about calling in sick; remember your health and welfare is the most important thing; take any feelings of guilt and throw them away with the snotty tissues, they will not help you.

Sleep - Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

Instead of calling in sick in the morning, why can’t people call their manager the night before (you generally know if you are feeling ill), this way you can get to sleep and not have to worry about waking up early to call anyone; after all sleep is generally the best cure.

Look at preventative measures.  If I saw someone had a cold or I started to feel a cold coming on, I would take Echinacea and Grapefruit Seed Extract (a natural antibiotic) and most of the time I would avoid getting the cold.

Lemon and Ginger - Photo by Dominik Martin on Unsplash

Stress at work, poor nutrition and a lack of sleep will lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to falling ill; more work needs to be done by the NHS and by companies to help people learn how to strengthen their immune system, however in the mean time remove some of the toxins you put into your body such as alcohol, sugar and caffeine (prevalent in the work place) make sure you get some exercise and make sure you get a regular good night’s sleep.

Keep well

Thank you, thank you, thank you

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