to take the day off sick!

Posted on October 28, 2011 by



Your colleague blurts out, as they sneeze for the fifth time, managing to catch it with their hands.

“Bless you”, you say,  “….Oh, can you pass me that stapler?”

 No, no no! Don’t do it, people!

The other night I went to the cinema to see ‘Contagion’; a film about a rapidly spreading and deadly flu-type virus, which soon becomes a global pandemic putting the whole world into a mad panic.

The kind of film where you really don’t want to be sitting next to someone who has the sniffles, that’s for sure!

Without giving too much away, the film centres on how the virus is physically spread from person to person whilst focusing on how panic and fear spread even faster – and part of this is down to blogging – how appropriate!

So whilst trying to distract myself from Jude Law’s snaggletooth and rather odd mixed accent (was it meant to be Aussie? US? UK?!) I really started thinking about the amount of times we touch our face and potentially unclean, contaminated surfaces…so of course I’m now even more attached to my hand sanitizer! I hate getting sick!

And with the cold and flu season approaching, I thought of the germs we can encounter, day to day. Inspired by the film, I felt compelled to blog!

It’s quite common practice in offices all over the world, our own included sometimes, where someone is feeling a little under the weather but, being the trooper they are, have come into work nonetheless.

Bless…they’re so committed to their job… but are they doing themselves (and others) more harm than good?

This practice is widely becoming known as ‘sickness presenteeism’ – where an employee continues to come into work despite feeling unwell. Perhaps because they cannot afford to take the time off sick, or they feel they’re already swamped with work and couldn’t possibly take the time off. Or even feel pressured by management or colleagues who might think they’re not pulling their weight.

And with us still feeling the affects of the recession, it’s quite understandable for employees to want to show face, if they feel insecure in their job.

But what affect does this have on the employee and the business?

  • Poor old Joe Bloggs comes into work (and let’s be honest, feeling the way he does, its no wonder his performance might be less than 100%).
  • But Joe goes and spreads the bug to other colleagues. Who in turn become sick.
  • Some of these colleagues (sensibly) take time off sick; others do the same as Joe and end up passing it on to even more people…maybe even clients!
  • And Joe? He ends up feeling even more exhausted, unable to make a quick recovery and may well end up having taking sickness absence after all…
  • But instead of it being just for a day or two (to nip it in the bud) it might be a week because he’s now got a chest infection. Nice

So in actual fact, despite Joe meaning well, he has probably cost the business more in loss of productivity and sickness absence, and has made himself feel rotten in the process.

Now I’m not saying that we should stay home for every sniffle or sore throat, but if you can’t stop coughing and sneezing or think you have a stomach bug, then please – consider staying home.

At the same time, I’ve been in situations myself in the past where despite feeling like death, I’ve had to go into work (what a great first day that was!) – so if you’re faced with a similar situation and can’t possibly stay home, then at least try isolate yourself a bit from your colleagues – try not to have physical contact with them, ask them to avoid touching your phone, keyboard etc. and try to wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.

Sickness Absence policies can sometimes be a real pain (sorry couldn’t help it!) for staff to understand or for companies to create or implement effectively…that’s where we come in! We’re seasoned pros in helping clients with this sort of thing:

  • Our HR consultants are ready to advise and assist with all forms of Sickness Absence questions and queries.
  • Don’t have a Sickness Absence policy in place yet? Why not speak to our team and to see about having one created that is specifically tailored to your company
  • Only a small company, just starting to grow? Then why not sign up to our HR sUPportal where you can download an example policy that you can adapt for your own?
  • Our HR sUPportal also contains an example Health and Safety policy in case of Pandemic Flu which sets out the planning and practical steps that both organisations and employees can take during an outbreak.  
  • Or why not attend an Absence Management Training session, which looks at handling all forms of absences including sickness, which we can tailor to your requirements?

Now, please excuse me, I’m off to stock up on Paracetamol, Lemsip and Vicks…in case none of you have listened to me!