Don't be a mucus trooper!

Jan 23 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Are you a mucus trooper, a stoic, a model patient, a walking epidemic or a shirker?

Three quarters of workers in the UK have gone to work despite being ill, threatening to pass on their bugs to their colleagues, according to a poll by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The poll found that as many as one in five say they have been to work when too ill in the last month alone, and nearly half say they have in the last year.

As sickness absence at work last year was the lowest since CBI surveys began and fell six per cent from the previous year, the TUC says that too many people may now be going to work when they would be better off recovering at home, rather than infecting their colleagues.

White collar workers and workers in the West Midlands are the most likely to struggle to work when ill.

The commonest reason people give for going to work when too ill, cited by more than four out of ten, is that 'people depend on the job I do, and I didnít want to let them down'.

But a significant minority - more than one in six - say they went to work because they 'would have lost pay, and couldnít afford it.'

The TUC criticised advertisements that show workers losing out when they are not at work of being "irresponsible". And it accused campaigns for cold remedies as too often focusing on trying to frighten people into what would happen if they donít struggle into work.

Other ad campaigns that encourage people to pull a Ďsickieí are also wrong, it says. Online bank Egg recently sent an email to customers that included: 'Can't face the thought of work? Then throw a sickie and bed down for the day, where all you need to think about is how to pamper yourself next.'

Earlier this year, a survey found that more than eight out of ten employees admit to occasionally faking an illness so that they can take a day of work, while more than six out of ten said that they were likely to have at least one day off sick in January.

"We are not the nation of malingerers that some paint,Ē insisted TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, ďin fact we struggle into work even when we are too ill to do so because we donít want to let people down. Itís all part of our long hours culture. Indeed long hours, stress and increasing workloads make people sick.

"Of course employers will want to deal with malingerers, but they should also make sure that people who are genuinely ill stay at home. The rest of us donít want to do extra work for those pulling a Ďsickieí, but nor do we want to pick up germs from colleagues or those with whom we share overcrowded public transport.

The TUCís message is donít be a mucus trooper. Look after yourself properly."