The Sickie Survey

New research shows camaraderie helps hospitality workers soldier on through sickness

‘National Sickie Day” (5th February), is the day when UK workers are most likely to call in sick. Our new survey of 286 workers in the hospitality sector indicates they are more likely to go into work than stay home when they are genuinely ill – and are very unlikely to ‘pull a sickie’.

Our survey found that only around one in 20 hospitality employees (6%) had claimed to be ill and taken a day off when they were actually fit to go to work. In fact, almost two in five hospitality workers (37%) had not taken a single day off sick in the previous year, while another 40% had only taken off one or two days as a result of illness.

Conversely, the majority of people questioned (65%) admitted that they had gone into work while they were ill or unwell and suffering a range of conditions from a cold (68%) to fever (42%), back pain (32%) and migraines (32%).

When asked why they went into work when they were ill, around one in 10 (less than 9%) said that taking time off was frowned upon by their employer, or that that they did so to avoid being sacked (just over 9%). Meanwhile 16% said that they battled into work to ensure they were paid. With perhaps a nod to the current hospitality crisis, just over one in four (28%) said there was no one to cover their role if they were away, hence the need to attend.

However, the majority cited positive reasons for working despite feeling ill, including ‘to support my fellow workers’ (52%), ‘because I love my job’ (29%), and ‘because I’d rather work than be at home if I’m well enough’ (40%).

Our research indicates a wide spread of sick pay policies among hospitality employers. Even though the majority of those surveyed (72%) had been with their current employer for over one year, a third of employees questioned said they are not eligible for any sick pay, though they can take unpaid days off work if they are sick. Of those who are entitled to sick pay, a third are entitled to time off with full pay while almost a third (29%) are only paid statutory sick pay.

While a third of respondents just grin and bear it and struggle through (30%), the majority of employees who do attend work when they are unwell use a range of approaches in order to feel better, from taking over the counter medicines like paracetamol (62%) to energy drinks and medicines (12%) and ‘taking it easy’ and asking colleagues to help out more (19%).

“People love working in the hospitality sector – apparently even when they are ill and should perhaps stay home instead,” said Craig Allen, founder and director of The Change Group. “Despite the sometimes long and anti-social hours, hospitality is a fun sector to work in and encourages strong teamwork, and these are perhaps the key reasons why employees show up when they are unwell.

“We would definitely recommend that employers should think carefully about their sick pay policies, especially for long tenure workers, as this can be seen as an important benefit. In fact, we are now seeing more and more employers offering full pay when employees take days off sick, as well as providing health insurance for key workers. Even though the research shows most hospitality employees don’t take much time off sick, these benefits can make a huge difference in terms of attracting the best talent.”