The Job Insecurity Principle: Are You Less Likely to Take Sick Leave?


The following is a guest post. Enjoy!
The Job Insecurity Principle: Are You Less Likely to Take Sick Leave?
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the UK, fewer people in the are taking time off work due to sickness. Could the reason for this be that workers are now more concerned about losing their jobs than they were ten or twenty years ago?


In 1993, the average worker in the UK missed 7.2 days from work every year as a result of injury or illness. In 2011, at a time of great economic uncertainty, the average British worker missed just 4.5 days. Assuming employees have not become more resilient to health problems in recent years, the most obvious explanation for the improvement or reduction is that people are more insecure about their jobs than they were during periods of relative prosperity.
In total, employers in the UK lost 131 million work days last year, compared with around 137 million work days in 2010, which happened to be a World Cup year. As absences from work have fallen steadily in recent years, the value placed on employment has risen sharply. Nobody wants to become unemployed in a flagging economy, so people are doing everything they can to ensure that they keep their jobs. This is no truer than in London, where only 1.3 percent of total working hours are lost each year.

Good or Bad?

A distinction should be made between genuine sickness or injury and conditions that have been made up or exaggerated by workers, but clearly, providing accurate figures on such a comparison would be difficult if not impossible.
If workers are genuinely sick or injured, they must decide whether their being at work is sensible or not. A nasty flu or cold virus could cause havoc in an office, so few employers are likely to be pleased with members of staff who turn up for work and proceed to sneeze, cough, and spit on work surfaces. It is also inadvisable for workers to attempt to operate dangerous machinery with, say, a broken arm. Sometimes, people need to stay at home.
Employers are, however, often impressed by behaviour that may be described as committed or dedicated; knowing that workers are prepared to ‘go the extra mile’ or ‘give 110 percent’ can be enough to make many managers squeal with smug satisfaction. Missing an important meeting or failing to show up for work on Monday because of a ‘migraine’ might not go down too well with some employers, especially if there is an obvious reason why the employee might be absent (e.g., England happens to be playing Argentina in the World Cup Final).
There are growing concerns that workers who fear redundancy do all they can to avoid missing work due to illness or injury. Ultimately, this cannot be good for the British economy. If people work through ill health, they are less likely to attain job satisfaction. They might also become more stressed – and possibly even more ill – by deciding to venture into work when really they ought to be at home. A workforce that is desperate to impress might also be desperately unhealthy and that is no good for anyone, least of all the economy.

How about you all? In your experience, do you feel people are taking fewer days off of work now because they are uncertain of their job? 

Or, do they simply feel that taking a day off sick will put them behind even more in this fast-moving working environment?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy of


  1. In this world of budget cuts to education, I feel somewhat insecure. I have accumulated 115 sick days. I normally do not take sick days and wanted to save them to extend my retirement service. By the time I retire in 5 years, I will be able to add a year service for retirement purposes.

    • That's really awesome krantcents! My mom works in education. I”m going to ask her to see if she can use her sick/vacation days that build up year-to-year to retire early. Might be possible! haha
      My recent post The Pros and Cons of a Down Payment Assistance Program

  2. Manette @ BFPF says:

    As long as I know I am good with the company, I stay dedicated and keep on working despite my sickness. However, if I do not feel the motivation anymore, I always wish I am sick so that I do not need to report to work. LOL.

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