A study commissioned by national charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK found that 34% of UK workers have lied about the reasons for taking time off sick due to fear of stigma. In a survey of 1,000 UK adults, results showed that employees often pick a ‘one-off’ short-term illness when calling in sick, instead of being honest about reoccurring problems.
Findings show that long-term health conditions are seen as the ‘least valid’ reason for calling in sick, despite their often devastating symptoms. Only 15% of people said that Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis were acceptable reasons to call in sick, despite them being the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Other invisible conditions such as depression (11%), anxiety (4%) and fatigue (3%) scored even lower. Mental health came as the top ‘taboo subject’ in workplace conversations, followed by Crohn’s and Colitis.
The most common reported reasons for calling in sick were short-term illnesses: vomiting (43%), flu (36%) and food poisoning (33%). Brits cover up the true reason for their illness out of fear of judgement (32%), and feel anxious (37%), stressed (28%) and doubted (22%) when taking time off work.
Fifty-seven per cent of those with long-term illnesses said they felt they need to downplay them at work. Of those, 43% believed they would experience stigma in the workplace otherwise, and 38% thought that it would affect their careers. Just over half of employees surveyed said that they do not feel supported in the workplace regarding their long-term illness.
Results also showed that 18% of workers feel ‘frustrated’ and 6% feel ‘angry’ towards colleagues who are frequently off sick.
Communications manager at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Juliet Chambers, called for employers to break down the taboos around hidden health conditions. “Living with any long-term condition is hard. Crohn’s and colitis are a growing but hidden health crisis in the UK workplaces – and people need better support and understanding to manage these conditions,” she said.
“Right now too many people feel forced to downplay the severity of their illness at work because of stigma. What’s worse; the stress and anxiety experienced by employees calling in sick will only increase the already devastating symptoms of their disease. We need to break down this taboo in the workplace and help employers and colleagues understand the true impact of these hidden diseases.”
If you have any queries about health and wellbeing or absence management in your workplace, then please get in touch with one of the team on 01924 907319. SAM software, can help you to see trends that are appearing across absence, encouraging conversations that can open lines of communications about reoccurring illnesses and provide support.