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UK workers cannot afford time off for illness

Employees also lack of knowledge of how sick pay works, assuming they'll receive their normal salary

Nearly two thirds (65%) of UK workers have gone into work ill due to being unable to afford the time off, according to research from First4Lawyers.

The survey of 2,000 employees found 73% are scared to take time off due to loss of income. It also found that 31% go in to work ill due to feeling guilty otherwise.

The research found a lack of knowledge among respondents about how sick pay works. More than four in five (81%) assumed they would recieve their normal salary, but most people would in fact receive the statutory £87.44 per week.

The survey found that, as a result, many struggle financially while off sick. While an average person's monthly bills total £850, sick pay income only equals £350 per month. Over half (51%) said that they received no help trying to pay their bills. Of those that did, more than a quarter (28%) turned to their partner or spouse for help, an eighth (12%) used their overdraft, and some (11%) asked their parents.

First4Lawyers expressed concern about the impact of attendance bonuses, which incentivise people to come in even when unwell.

Andrew Cullwick, head of marketing, added that employers could also be doing more to prevent employees becoming ill in the first place. "In terms of what employers can do now to support their staff, schemes that give discounted gym membership and access to healthcare and other medical services, are a great way to show that a company cares about the wellbeing of their staff," he told HR magazine.

"Fit and healthy employees are the lifeblood of business and the UK economy. Businesses shouldn’t be just thinking about the whether they pay sick employees, but how they can keep their staff fit and well and what they need to do to help them recover.”