TUC: Sickies a Myth, Brits are "Mucus Troopers"

Last Updated Mar 31, 2010 12:32 PM EDT

It's a myth that public sector workers are always throwing 'sickies', says a Trades Union Congress (TUC) report, "The Truth About Sickness Absence".

In fact, says the report, 41 percent of public sector staff battled into work when unwell, compared to 36 percent in the private sector. Most do so out of a sense of duty or to avoid letting their colleagues down.

But the report does acknowledge that longer-term absences are more of an issue in the public sector -- where, it adds, people work in "stressful and dangerous" jobs "that can cause injury."

Quoted on Abeceder, TUC general secretary says, "The truth is we are really a nation of mucus troopers (sic) , where workers -- particularly those in the public sector -- routinely go into work when they are too ill and should be at home. And they do this not because they are afraid of their boss, but because they know they do vital jobs in overstretched workplaces."

Of course, there's a fine line between conscientousness and martyrdom -- your team-mates may not thank you for passing on your raging cold, and it's at times like this that flexible working options come into their own.

There's also a managerial option to create the modern equivalent of 'duvet days'. Progressive employers such as Timpson, the heel repair and key-cutting chain, and Moneypenny, an answering service for executives, allocate single days off (called 'Bad Hair Days' at Moneypenny) to run errands or just loaf around.

This seems more likely to foster productivity than the hardline approach, which hasn't done much to squash the sickie so far, according to separate employee surveys, one from job site CareerBuilder and another from law firm Peninsula Ireland.

Even so, with the World Cup coming, it's possible employers may resort to tougher practices, such as calling in experts to assess whether your symptoms are genuine. If they do, what do you think they'll make of CareerBuilder's poll of brassiest excuses for a bunk?

  1. My glass eye fell out and I can't find it.
  2. My body needs to adjust to the climate change.
  3. My bed broke and I'm trapped under it.
  4. I rode my bike into a lamppost.
  5. I had some bad beer.
  6. My toenails are too long for shoes and I couldn't find a clipper.
  7. I forgot to buy an alarm clock.
  8. My house won't let me out, I'm locked in.
  9. My sink is blocked.
  10. I got pepper in my eye.
(Pic: mcfarlandmo cc2.0)