Half of Belgian employees worked while sick last year, according to figures published on Friday by HR company Tempo-Team. The company conducted the study in cooperation with KU Leuven to better understand how illness affects work.
A total of 2,500 workers and 250 employers took part in the survey. In total, more than a third of employees still went to their place of work while they were unwell. Only 15% worked from home.
More than half (54%) of women interviewed by the survey said that they soldiered on and went to the office, against just 47% of men. People under the age of 34 are more likely (58%) to work while sick than those over 34 (43%).
Common colds accounted for almost half of illnesses. A quarter of those surveyed worked through back pain, 20% stomach ache, and 18% fever. A further 16% pushed past psychological challenges.
When asked why they continue to work, respondents cited a sense of solidarity and not wanting to strain their colleagues. However, this risks spreading illness in the workplace and being unwell obviously impacts productivity.
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In a separate study conducted by HR company SD Worx, companies that issue one-day sick notes (allowing employees to be off ill without visiting their GP) most commonly saw workers take Mondays off sick. One in three sickness certificates were claimed for Monday, compared to just 3.5% on Fridays.
From October, employees are no longer required to provide sick notes for short absences due to illness. The decision will likely reduce the burden on GPs by 1.9 million visits per year.