Sick pay wages 'forcing thousands of people to work as they can't afford time off'

Reportedly many people cannot afford to take sick leave
Reportedly many people cannot afford to take sick leave -Credit:scu

A huge number of people are working through pain as they cannot afford to take time off, suggests new research which highlights 'a bleak picture' of the health of workforces in the UK.

And a quarter of them reported they are taking painkillers due to a work-related injury, it adds. The findings follow a survey of 2,000 British workers carried out by National Accident Helpline, which offers advice and support to people who have been injured through no fault of their own.

As The Express reports, it found that a third of Britons are regularly working through pain as they cannot afford time off. The research suggests that while economic inactivity in the UK has hit a crisis point, with record long sickness said to impact 2.8 million people, not enough attention is being paid to the many who are working with pain, which can often lead to worsening long-term conditions.

Over half of those surveyed said they have never pulled a sickie in their career, while 28% said they have begun using remote working days as a substitute for sick days. A quarter of those surveyed also reported having, or having had, 'computer vision syndrome', which is an umbrella term for eye problems which have developed from using screens, often for too long without taking a break.

John Kushnick, legal operations director at National Accident Helpline, said: “This research paints a bleak picture of the health of workers in the UK. Nobody should have to choose when it comes to their health but the reality is accidents and illnesses do happen yet the UK’s current statutory sick pay is clearly forcing people into work, which can often lead to worse long-term outcomes.

“Rather than deterring people, raising the level of statutory sick pay can help more people get back on their feet and back into work more quickly, while employees who have suffered a work-related injury may be entitled to compensation to help them get back to where they were before their injury.” At present, people can receive £116.75 per week in Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are too ill to work and employers pay this for up to 28 weeks.

Mr Kushnick added: “While the UK is experiencing relatively high rates of sickness absence and ill health, it is clear the bigger picture includes the thousands of people who are still in work because they cannot afford to not be. Gig economy workers, for example, are particularly vulnerable.

“Most people are unaware that while sickness pay lags behind normal wages, making a claim means that we can seek to recover their full loss of earnings, ensuring nobody is out of pocket.” When the NAS asked respondents more about their working patterns, it found that a fifth of Britons working from home spend more than five hours a day sitting down, while a third spend over five hours a day sitting down when working in the office.

A fifth of employees said they do not take or have any lunch at all, while the vast majority do not take more than 45 minutes for lunch. Mr Kushnick added: “Ahead of the general election in the UK, all eyes will be on which party puts workers’ rights at its core, to tackle record sickness rates both inside and outside the workforce.”