British workers conscientious despite heatwave

2006

Predictions that Britain's hot summer would lead to an epidemic of "sickies" appear, at least on the evidence so far, to be somewhat wide of the mark.

Research has suggested that most UK workers did not "chuck a sickie" to enjoy the good weather.

In fact, conscientious workers made every effort to turn up for work despite the rising temperatures, said Alan Aldridge, director of absence management organisation FirstCare Health and Absence.

"During the heat wave we saw absence rates across our clients actually running at 3.8 per cent lower than average, with the number of calls we received from people calling to report in sick also dropping to 16 per cent lower than average," said Aldridge.

"It is wrong to portray the UK worker as a workshy shirker who drops his responsibilities at the first sign of the sun peering through the clouds," he added.

Aldridge continued: "We specifically saw a decrease in absence across all our emergency services clients, including the NHS, fire services and office based workers.

"We believe this is because emergency service workers understand the importance of their roles given the high temperatures and are prepared to ignore their own discomfort to ensure that they don't let the public down," he said.

One reason for reduced absence levels could be that the prospect of sitting in a cool, air-conditioned office was in fact relatively attractive to many workers compared with sweating it out in the garden or at home.

Aldridge said: "Another factor in the reduced level of absence during the mini heatwave could well be the fact that office based workers are generally more comfortable at work due to large open spaces and air conditioning – a reflection of employers understanding of climate change and the valuable benefit in making sure their employees are comfortable – during these temperatures it is just more comfortable to be at work than at home.

"The one area where we did see a rise in absence during this period was amongst manual workers who called in with heat-related absences more than usual – our nurses were able to give these people advice on how to deal with sunstroke and other heat-related problems," he added.

"Given the forecast for another heat wave in August we would advise all organisations to take steps to ensure adequate provisions are made for employees, including water and sun protection for workers that are outside," Aldridge concluded.

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