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Businesses at risk as workers grind on with infectious illnesses

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 03:29 pm

WORKERS are putting their health and that of their colleagues at risk, by not taking time off work when they are sick with infectious illnesses.

Survey findings* published in the Digital Healthcare Review by, an online service that allows patients to connect live to a UK-based GP via video, have revealed 86% will go into work with an infectious illness.

And 88% of workers admitted they don’t feel comfortable calling in sick when they are unwell, regardless of how ill they are.

The data suggests this is in part due to a problem with workplace culture, as 1 in 4 workers (24%) claim they feel under pressure to go into work when they are ill.

More than 1 in 5 (22%) say their boss would prefer them to be at work if they had an infectious illness, as long as it wasn’t serious – suggesting many companies are not recognising the impact contagious conditions can have on the workforce’s health and, therefore, productivity.

This isn’t, however, lost on workers – 1 in 5 (21%) feel uncomfortable being around their colleagues when they are infectious.

The illnesses workers are most likely to go into work with are coughs and colds (59%), tonsillitis, sinusitis (33%), throat infections or strep throat (32%), flu (22%) and the norovirus (15%).

Utility industry workers aged 25-34 years old living in Bradford or Coventry were the most likely to brave attending work with an infectious illness.

Eren Ozagir, CEO at, comments: “Work pressures can mean finding the time to see a doctor and get advice about whether sick leave is necessary can be difficult. UK businesses must provide their staff with working cultures that encourage seeking medical advice and time off to recover.

“Providing employees access to a GP who can give expert diagnosis or opinion on when it is best to stay at home, or whether they are fit for work, can save the rest of the office from contagious diseases and illness. Accessing a GP can be made less time consuming and more convenient – services like ensure patients can attend GP appointments wherever they are, including in the office.

“Having employees in the office while they’ve got contagious illnesses is not good business sense, and it has a detrimental effect on productivity, morale and staff turnover.”

Dr Adam Simon, chief medical officer at, added: “When you are ill, your body needs to dedicate a lot of energy to fighting the infection or virus – and if workers are having to make their way to the office and perform to their usual levels, that means there is less energy available to aid recovery. As such, quite often, when sick workers are given the time to recover, they will do so faster, allowing them to return to focusing 100% of their energies on their work.

“Being pressured to recover in the office also means there is a greater chance of the illness being spread amongst the workforce – which can be disastrous for company-wide productivity.

“There is a reason why Fit for Work notes exist – and workers and employers alike need to ensure that medical advice is being sought and acted upon, in the event of illness.”

This culture of presenteeism is worst in the marketing industry, where 50% believe their boss would prefer them to be at work if they had an infectious illness, unless it was serious.

Meanwhile the utility industry (39%) and manufacturing (27%) followed in second and third place.

Marketing workers (29%) were second only to utilities workers (34%) in feeling pressured to work from the office while unwell. is an online service connecting patients with friendly and highly skilled, GMC-registered UK General Practitioners, via secure video consultations, wherever they are.

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