Calling in sick in a recession

Workers nationwide are taking more sick days as stress from the recession and increased workloads are taking a toll, reported this week. But Richmond professionals say absenteeism has waned in light of fears over unemployment.

The average worker missed nine days last year, up from the five days reported the previous year. That is according to a survey of 1,900 employees by the Work Life Balance Centre and Coventry University taken between October and January.

The areas reporting the highest absences were higher education, banking and finance, and government and civil service.

The findings, however, are not consistent with what some local employers are seeing. In fact, Robert Peters, general manager at the Holiday Inn-Crossroads, is noticing just the opposite.

“I don’t have as many call-outs as I used to,” Peters said. “I had one this morning. That was the first in months.”

He said more employees are coming to work sick rather than staying home because they don’t want to lose the pay and they are concerned about job security because of the recession.

“There’s been a difference in the last six months,” he said. “Some of my employees come in sick, and I’ve had to tell them to go on home.”

Gary Glover, president of Puritan Cleaners, said this is not a pattern that he has picked up on: “I would say there might be a little bit of that out there, but I haven’t really noticed it.”

“I’m hearing that,” said Karen Michael, an attorney specializing in workplace law and consulting, of the trend. “I had a doctor tell me his patients are afraid to have surgery because they don’t want to lose their jobs.”

She said the issue of taking sick days can be divided into two camps: those with paid sick days and those without. Those without sick days are more likely than ever to show up with an illness, she said.

“I can definitely see it in an hourly worker who is trying to make ends meet,” Michael said.

Angela Cornish, director of professional development for the Richmond Human Resources Management Association, said she thinks people are taking fewer sick days but not for fear of losing their jobs.

“I have a feeling that people who have a cold are more likely to come because there are fewer employees left and they don’t want to burden their teams,” she said.

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11 years ago

Hourly employees go to work sick, salaried employees stay home. That’s the pattern and it’s not rocket science to figure it out. Hourly employees, many like hotel workers who don’t get sick days, have to do whatever it takes to get to work. Salaried employees, most of whom get sick days, have the option to stay away. Many salaried employees, though, will go to work feeling lousy because if they don’t, the work piles up and they wind up working late one or two evenings to make up for the day they took off. This is the American concept of… Read more »