According to a new report by Aviva UK Health, 78% of employees would return to their desks from illness before they are fully recovered but just 22% said they would never be prepared to sacrifice their health in order to get back to the office quickly.
The report also shows money worries are the root cause for this damaging trend: 49% of those questioned said they would come back to their desk early if they thought their family couldn't cope financially while a further 11% claimed that fear of losing their job would hasten their return to work.
The survey reveals eight out of 10 employees (79%) felt they couldn't get by on less than half salary. In reality, just 40% of employers surveyed offered this level of financial support to those on long-term sick leave.
Kevin Murdoch, senior proposition development manager at Aviva UK Health, comments: "Long-term sickness can have a major impact on an individual and their family. And in fact, the knock-on effects in terms of increased stress and financial worries can at times be as hard to cope with as the actual condition itself - particularly if a breadwinner is affected. The disturbing findings in our survey highlight just how poorly equipped to survive a period of long-term absence many of us are and how this can lead us to make decisions we might live to regret."
"While the Government's newly introduced fit notes initiative aims to encourage a prompt return to work, nobody would wish them to come back before they're 100% fit and able.
"Returning to work prematurely from an illness or injury without the appropriate support could be detrimental to the health of an employee and, from a business perspective, employers will reap few benefits from such ‘presenteeism' - a lose, lose situation. But, without adequate funds, some breadwinners will inevitably take drastic action in order to keep afloat.
"Health is the most precious gift and we abuse it at our peril. Yet that's exactly what the majority of employees questioned in our survey claim to be prepared to do if illness or injury threatens their family's livelihood. We urge people to take steps to protect themselves if they are unable to work as a result of illness or injury."