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Work Sickness & COVID

Will Coronavirus stop us coming to work sick?

A study conducted by Love Energy Savings at the end of 2019 found that more than 80% of British employees still continue to work when they are ill.

The study investigated which groups were most likely to continue to work when unwell and discovered some shocking results. Less than one-fifth of British workers (17%) admitted to taking sick days when they’re unwell. 

In this article we discuss how the findings of the study could play into the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, why employees may wish to continue working despite showing symptoms, and what businesses can do to take action. 

What were the key findings of the study?

Young people are the most likely to come to work when they’re sick. A staggering 92% of 18 to 24-year-olds admit to working when ill. In contrast, we can see that it’s more common for workers to take time off when they’re sick as they get older, with numbers dropping to 84% for 25 to 34 year olds and 80% for 35 to 44 year olds.

But, in light of the current Covid-19 virus, will employees be more likely to take note of their symptoms and avoid the workplace? 

Why might employees wish to continue working as usual?

The study also looked at the main reasons employees avoid taking time off work, with the key causes being:

  • A lack of sick pay
  • Overwhelming workload
  • Fear of losing their job
  • To save on sick days
  • A sense of job security
  • Loyalty to the company
  • Financial worries
  • Struggles with mental health such as depression or anxiety

As it stands, the government has put the whole of the U.K. on lockdown to prevent the virus spreading as rapidly, which means the majority of businesses are now closed.

However, key workers, such as those in industries like transport, utilities, and food production or supply, are still expected to continue working as normal in order to ensure the U.K. public still has access to services and items that are essential. 

Because of this, it’s vital that business owners with companies in any of the essential industries do whatever it takes to ensure their staff are kept as safe as possible, whilst striving to meet the ever-increasing demand of the British public’s needs. 

What can business owners do to protect their key workers and ensure they stay productive?

Here are a few small steps business owners can take to ensure all their employees are kept as safe as possible whilst still fulfilling their roles.

Create a healthy environment

Creating a healthy environment is one great way to keep staff calm and ensure they’re safe. Place things like tissue boxes, bins and hand sanitisers throughout their workplace. Encourage regular hand washing and try to keep workers a minimum of two metres apart at all times. For employees that have to travel as part of their role, supply them with a bottle of hand sanitiser and encourage them to keep as much distance between others as they can. Doing each of these things will massively reduce the chances of employees contracting Coronavirus from one another. 

Provide protective equipment if necessary

In some cases, such as food preparation, gloves are already required. However, providing additional protective equipment for all staff to wear offers an extra defence from any germs. Items such as gloves, face masks, visors and shoe covers don’t cost a lot of money to buy and can really make a difference to how safe an employee feels whilst working. 

Stagger shifts 

Staggering shifts is a brilliant way to ensure much fewer staff are coming into contact with one another at the start and end of their shifts. Instead of having two separate groups of workers that start/finish at 12pm, for example, create four separate groups that start/finish at 12pm and 4pm. This will take a bit of time to figure out and it may take a few weeks for your staff to fully adjust. However, it’s much safer to stagger shifts than to have all staff start or finish at the same time. 

Rearrange meetings and on-site visits

If your staff have meetings booked in over the next few months or if they’re due to work offsite or visit another company, try to cancel them for the time being and rearrange. If cancelling isn’t possible, try to have the meetings online or over the phone by using collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp or Skype. This limits interactions with other people, reducing the chance of contracting Covid-19. 

Ensure people showing symptoms self-isolate

Any employees showing symptoms of the Coronavirus should be sent home immediately to self-isolate for a minimum of two weeks. If you spot any staff members showing symptoms, it’s better to send them home rather than risk them unintentionally infecting others.

Karen Ball, People Manager at Love Energy Savings says “In light of the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever to make sure all employees are kept as safe as possible. ÁBusiness owners must ensure that they provide their employees with the equipment they need to stay safe and, if responsible and possible, fulfil their role.”

“This is a unique situation but we’ve seen the country pulling together and stringently following government advice to protect each other and the NHS. Key-workers, still coming into contact with the disease either on the front-line or indirectly must be incredibly diligent when it comes to spotting signs and taking accountability for their wellbeing and health of others. At Love Energy Savings we always prioritise the health and safety of our workforce over all else. Now more than ever, being overly cautious is recommended.”

Check out all of the latest government advice regarding the Coronavirus here:            

COVID-19 SME Support Centre

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