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Employees afraid of taking sick days

The 'times of recession' appears to have become a boogeyman-equivalent used by employers to scare employees.

November 18, 2012 12:22 by

Referring to the ‘recession’ as a thing of the past may help you sleep at night and develop a more positive outlook on your future finances and prospects. The reality however, is that even with global economies improving – it could be that the global downturn is being exploited by employers as an economic version of the boogeyman.

Millions of employees around the world are becoming more dominated by a culture of ‘Presenteeism’ and because job security, especially on a global scale, seems to be a myth of the past, they are too frightened to take sick leaves despite being severely ill.

A study published by DM last month surveyed both employees and employers all over Britain only to find that an incredibly high percentage of employees either feel guilty or are simply terrified to take a sick day even when they need to. Naturally, they arrive at the office and one of two things can happen. Either they are unable to work properly or produce anything remotely commendable or they infect half of the other employees around them. Let’s call it the chain of sickness shall we?

To express Kipp’s own impressionistic view of the vicious cycle, the biggest casualty is logic. If we were able to brush aside our job insecurity, fears of being judged or made redundant and the reality of the economic downturn; we would logically see that for us to participate in the CoS is counter-productive to us and those around us.

On the other hand, to further quote the published study, it found that ‘one in two employers do carefully look at the amount of sick days taken when considering who to make redundant’ so one cannot particularly place too much blame on employees for living with this fear.

In a recent poll, Kipp questioned our readers whether or not they worry about being ‘judged’ when taking sick leaves. We gave them three options; I hardly take them even when I need to, I feel hesitant and guilty but I do take them and lastly, not at all, it’s my right as an employee.

We’d like to tell you that our results were mostly leaning to side but actually, the responses were almost equally divided into thirds. However, the option that did gain an extra foot was “Yes – I hardly ever take one when I need to.” The quoted study focused exclusively on UK-based employees but we wanted to discover whether this redundant (excuse the pun) ideology exists here as well. The fact that a little over 35 percent of our readers hardly ever take a leave even when in serious need is shocking.

Needless to say, it is clear that employees all around the world do struggle with fear, guilt and trepidation when even considering taking a sick leave. The question is who’s to blame?

Michelle Hunter, a Professor of Business Psychology at Herriott-Watt University lent us her opinion on the matter from a more psychological and personal dimension. “Even when employees are ill, you will find that their guilt of not turning up for work will stand precedence over the fact that they are unwell and must rest to ensure a speedy recovery,” she says.

“People tend to always want to portray themselves in a positive light considering how unstable employment conditions can be, employees fear job loss and will therefore expend lots of effort to ensure that their behaviors tally with their bosses expectations.”

“Employees may feel that their boss may consider them to be the weaker link if they called in sick. People also do not want to be seen as getting paid for not being there, even if their absence is justified by sickness,” concludes Hunter.

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