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UK workforce's 35 million days off a year are 'sickies', according to Aon Consulting research

David Woods , 14 Jul 2010

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The UK economy is suffering as its workforce takes more than 35 million sick days a year for personal reasons rather than for a genuine illness.

More than one in five UK workers (21%) say the last time they took a day off from work as sick leave they were only feigning illness, according to a survey of over 7,500 European workers from Aon Consulting.

The UK accounts for over a quarter of the 122 million ‘sickies’ pulled across Europe, and an additional 12% of Brits admit the last sick day they took was in order to look after a family member.

This research is part of the Aon Consulting European Employee Benefits Benchmark, a survey of more than 7,500 workers from across Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, 10 of the leading economies in Europe. The Benchmark focuses on the views of workers across Europe on topics such as retirement, employee benefits and other pension-related issues.

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The report found in the UK 25% of men cited a personal issue as the reason for their last day off work compared with just 18% of women. Almost half (48%) of those who work in the property industry pulled a ‘sickie’ to get a day off work, compared with just 2.5% of those who work in the legal sector.

Only half (52%) of Brits took their last sick day for a genuine physical or mental illness. And Brits are more than four times as likely to feign illness to get time off work compared with Europe’s most honest workforce, the Danish. Just 4% of Danes took their last sick day for a fabricated illness compared with 21% of Brits.

Peter Abelskamp, director of health and benefits EMEA at Aon Consulting, said: "Over 35 million days taken as fictitious sick leave is costing the UK economy millions and these are probably conservative figures, considering the number of people who don’t admit to faking sickness. Employers would be well advised to tackle the issues of sickness and workplace absence head on, as these seriously impact efficiency and hit their balance sheets.

"The economic turmoil facing the UK has probably reduced the number of sick days taken, as 14% of people say the threat of redundancy would actually force them to cut down the number of days off for non-medical reasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, over a quarter of respondents say a cash incentive on top of their salary would also encourage them to come in to work."

The top five things that would encourage Brits to take less time off work, according to Aon’s research are:

·         Provision of flexible working (29%)

·         Substantial cash incentive (28%)

·         Benefit of social days to take for non-medical, personal reasons (23%)

·         More interesting work (16%)         

·          Reduced payment in case of sick leave (15%)

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