Bosses have “blinkered” attitude to sickness

Senior leaders are unlikely to believe employees who call in sick and will rarely show sympathy, reveals new report.

Most HR professionals don’t want employees turning up if they’re genuinely unwell – it’s just bad for business – but it seems senior leaders still aren’t on the same page and very few show compassion for sick workers.

A recent survey by medical insurance provider AXA PPP has revealed the ailments that bosses don’t consider serious enough to warrant a day off – and you might be surprised by the somewhat unsympathetic results.

Of the 1,000 business owners, managing directors and chief executives who were surveyed, just 37 per cent said back pain, injury caused by accident and even elective surgery were adequate excuses for missing work.

Employees can expect even less understanding if they’re suffering from a migraine or headache, with just one in five of bosses saying that’s a valid reason to stay at home.

The most acceptable ailment was flu – although even then, just 41 per cent of bosses said they’d condone calling in sick.

AXA also surveyed non-executive employees and the results show exactly how bosses’ behaviour is deterring many employees from telling the truth.

The subsequent study found that seven per cent would tell their boss a lie if they had to miss work for a physical ailment such as back pain, flu or accidental injury.

Perhaps more alarmingly, employees were almost six times more likely to lie if they called in sick due to stress, anxiety or depression, with 40 per cent saying they would not tell their manager the truth.

The survey also found that 22 per cent of employees would not give the honest reason if they phoned in sick due to a cold, while 12 per cent would lie about having a migraine.

"Employers need to challenge this blinkered attitude, both for their own benefit as well as that of their employees," said AXA’s Glen Parkinson.

"In many cases it is more productive for an employee to take a day off to recover from a spell of illness rather than to come into work, with diminished productivity and, for likes of colds and flu, the potential to spread their illness to workmates,” he explained.

When asked to explain why they would withhold the truth from their managers, 23 per cent of employees said they preferred to keep their health issues private but a further 23 per cent admitted they were afraid of being judged and 15 per cent said they were concerned about not being believed.

Seven per cent said they were afraid of their manager's reaction and three per cent confessed they would feel ashamed to reveal the true reason.

"Showing sympathy and flexibility when employees are unwell is crucial to maintaining a healthy and committed workforce, which in the long term creates a healthier business,” added Parkinson.

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