One in four (24%) of the workforce went to work despite thinking they were too ill to do so in January, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by the TUC and published today (13 February 2009).
The majority of those struggled in because they did not want to let others down, the poll found.
The TUC says the poll paints a very different picture of sickness absence to the caricature that British workers are always taking bogus sickies and stay home at the first sign of a sniffle.
Workplace absence statistics collected by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) support these findings and show that sickness absence has, in fact, been steadily falling over the past decade.
Ten years ago, the average worker took an average of 8.5 days off sick a year. Last year it was 6.7 days. This is a fall of more than 20%, and the second lowest figure since records began in 1987.
According to the YouGov poll, more than half the workforce (57%) say they have gone to work when too ill during the last year. Only one in eight (12%) say they have never gone to work when too ill.
More than one in four (29%) say that the recession will make them more likely to go to work when ill.
TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “Too often we are told that British workers are always taking bogus sickies or taking time off at the first sign of a sniffle.
“But the truth is that we are a nation of mucus-troopers who struggle into work even when we are too ill because we do not want to let colleagues, clients or our employer down.
“While this is admirable, it is not always the best thing to do. Coughs and sneezes still spread diseases, and the worst thing you can do to your workmates is pass on your illness.”