‘National Sickie Day’ highlights a culture that causes workplace illnesses and injuries

It was interesting to note the coverage the so-called ‘National Sickie Day’ received earlier this week.

While the BBC played it with a very straight bat, other media sources took a more light-hearted approach with both The Sun and The Daily Star focusing their coverage on what they considered to be the weirdest and worst excuses for employees calling in sick.

What the BBC chose to focus on is certainly of concern though, with the broadcaster highlighting a survey showing around 8.6 million UK workers took sick days last year because they found their job “too painful” with 12 million workers going into work while genuinely sick. The survey, conducted by Kantar, was of 1,246 working adults and was then weighed to reflect the wider working population of almost 33 million people.

While you may arguably need to take the researchers’ claims that work culture, colleagues and workloads were to blame with a pinch of salt to an extent given the numerical claims have been weighed, other sources do support such claims, as the latest data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that 23.5 million working days were lost in the 2018/19 financial year due to work-related ill health.

It should also be noted that, according to the HSE figures, a further 4.7 million working days were lost in the last financial year due to non-fatal work injuries.

The issue

We would argue then that we have an issue in this country with work-related sickness and injuries. In particular, we would say that the psychological effect of UK workplaces needs to be reviewed – we say that as, when digging down into the HSE figures regarding the number of working days lost, stress, depression and anxiety account for the majority of the 23.5 million days lost last year at 12.8 million. In addition, those on sick leave from work with stress, depression and anxiety are also off for longer, taking 21.2 days off work on average compared to an overall average of 15.1 days off when accounting for all work-related ill health and non-fatal work injuries.

It may also be that the tone taken by the likes of The Sun and The Daily Star – arguably a mocking tone that makes fun of those who call in sick – when reporting on something like a supposed ‘National Sickie Day’ contributes to the issues too. While those articles are clearly aimed at making fun at those people who use frivolous reasons to ‘throw a sickie’, it could be argued that they contribute to a culture in this country where people who take time off work are viewed with an underlaying air of suspicion. Because of this, people – 12 million of them according to the Kantar research – then turn up for work when they are genuinely ill. It is because of this, we would argue, that we have seen a rise in so-called ‘presenteeism’ in the UK in recent years, as people feel they have to carry on even when they are not fit to work as they will otherwise face accusations that they are ‘putting it on’ or are ‘weak’.

It could be said that this kind of attitude, and employers allowing it to flourish, rather than addressing the issues that caused 23.5 million working days to be lost in the last financial year creates a toxic work culture. It also speaks volumes to us that the happiest workforces and most productive economies in the world, such as those in the Scandinavian countries, are those where workers feel they can take time off work when they are sick without fear of persecution or loss of opportunities.

How to reduce workplace illness and injury

We need to get away from this culture of presenteeism and of not dealing with the issues we are facing at work then. If you ignore a problem, it will not go away. Regardless of whether it is a niggling injury caused by your work or negative comments from a colleague that are upsetting you, if you ignore the problem, it will continue to fester and get worse.

For example, if you are in a role that requires manual lifting and you pull a muscle in your back while lifting something that you find too heavy, that pain isn’t going to go away by you then continuing to lift things at work that you find too heavy. The pain is going to get worse and worse to the point that you will need to take time off work and your general quality of life may also be seriously affected too.

Similarly, if your employer allocates you an unreasonable amount of work that you struggle to get through and this causes you undue stress and anxiety, that is not acceptable and something should be said as it will eventually cause you to burn out. In this regard, if you allow your employer to get away with allocating an unreasonable amount of work to you, it will embolden them and makes it more likely to do it with other members of staff too.

Ultimately, employers are legally obliged to take all reasonable steps to protect both their employees’ physical and mental health. If they don’t and it leads to you suffering a workplace injury or work-related illness, including stress, depression and anxiety, then you may be able to claim compensation from them for any medical expenses you incur or loss of earnings you suffer as a result of needing to take time off work.

How we can help

At The Compensation Experts, we work with specialist legal firms who have a proven track record in successful workplace illness and injury compensation claims. Initially, one of our advisors with have a chat with you to find out how you came to be ill or injured. Once this is done, they will advise you whether you may have grounds for a successful claim. As a part of this, we might also obtain medical reports to help determine the strength of your case. This is all done on a free no-obligation basis. If it is felt you may have a successful claim, we will then match you with the firm who best suits the circumstances of your case. This means we and the legal firms we work with are well-placed to help you get the maximum amount of compensation.

If you have suffered a workplace injury, do not hesitate to get in touch with us via our website or by calling 0161 413 8763.