Almost two in three (64%) people who need to be physically present at work can’t afford to take sick leave, according to a new study.
The research by Ciphr, which explored the ongoing effects of the cost-of-living crisis, found this figure was much higher than the 55% who reported the same in 2022.
Among the 1,000 UK employees surveyed by the HR software provider, nearly two in five (38%) of both remote and hybrid workers also admitted attending their workplace while unwell because of fears over loss of earnings.
The study also revealed that female staff were more likely than men to have worked through sickness in the past six months, at 68% compared to 58% respectively.
Commenting on the research, Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, said: “Unfortunately, as these findings show, we’re still very much in the grip of an incredibly challenging cost-of-living crisis. I’m sure most employers are acutely aware of the continuing impact that rising living costs are having on their employees – and many will have already responded through increased pay or bonuses, and with wellbeing support or extra benefits.
“For many people, increases to their living costs doesn’t only mean a reduction in their disposable income, but it also affects their ability to keep on top of bills, pay for childcare, fill up the car with petrol, put the heating on, pay the rent or mortgage, or buy food. This can cause a huge amount of stress and anxiety, which can in turn impact health and wellbeing.”
The survey further found that retail and hospitality workers were the most likely to attend work while sick, with around four in five (81% and 78% respectively) workplace-based staff in these industries admitting they had done so.
According to Ciphr, the findings suggest many individuals may not be entitled to contractual or company sick pay, which often starts on a person’s first day of sickness absence. They may instead have only statutory sick pay entitlements, which could mean they are only paid for leave taken after the first three days.
Williams added: “It is concerning to see that more and more employees are feeling compelled to work when they may not be well enough to do so, due to the financial impact of taking time off. Some of these workers may not be entitled to statutory sick pay under the current SSP system, while others simply can’t afford to live on the current rates of SSP pay, or wait the qualifying time to get it. It’s something that’s in urgent need of reform, and employers may need to consider the moral stance they want to take on this, as part of their wider social responsibility.
“Above all, employers need to be mindful that everyone’s situation is different. Not everyone is being affected by the same financial pressures equally, and not everyone is coping with the stress of this situation in the same way.”