Bosses don’t think the flu is a good enough reason to call in sick

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New research of UK SMEs from AXA PPP healthcare reveals a productivity dip when ill employees turn up for work, but bosses are dubious that the flu warrants time off.

Nearly six out of 10 (58%) managers of British SMEs say productivity suffers when unwell employees show up to work and try to soldier on. Yet, with minor illnesses such as coughs and colds accounting for one in five sickness absence days, fewer than a quarter (24%) of SME managers believe that they are sufficiently serious to warrant taking time off work sick. And just 41% reckon flu is a serious enough reason for work absence.

Dr Yousef Habbab, Medical Director for Health Services at AXA PPP healthcare commented: “Losing employees to coughs and colds is a perennial problem. While they are generally self-limiting and short-term, the severity of seasonal viruses can vary and at their worst they can knock us for six. And, when this happens, we shouldn’t be afraid to take time to recover or, if necessary, see a doctor – especially if it’s a more serious condition such as flu, which triggers breathing difficulties.”

The research also indicates that digital healthcare could be a boost for sick workers, with SME managers agreeing that online access to doctors’ appointments would reduce employees’ time out of the office (44%), reduce presenteeism (16%) and boost productivity (15%).

Dr Habbab continued: “It is discouraging that people who are genuinely sick are turning up for work and this isn’t helped by some bosses’ scepticism that coughs, colds and even flu warrant time off work. Employers who build a positive, supportive workplace culture and make sure their people know it’s acceptable to take time off when they’re unwell should be confident that their employees will repay and not misuse their trust.

“It’s encouraging, however, that employers acknowledge the potential value to their people and to their business of digitally-enabled healthcare for quick, convenient access to medical information and care – and a timely return back to health and back to work.”

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    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson