Santa delivers stress and sick leave to UK workers

According to research by Benenden Health, the pressures of juggling family, health and care demands are a major cause of stress and unplanned absences from work in the run-up to the festive period, with one in eight UK workers taking sick leave at Christmas.

One in seven businesses reported experiencing an up-tick in sick leave and other unplanned absences in the run-up to Christmas. However, the report suggests better flexible working arrangements could help reduce absenteeism.

Based on responses from 1000 employees and 1000 UK SMEs, non-profit corporate healthcare provider, Benenden Health, found that sick days were more widely used for childcare, personal health and family commitments, and not overindulgence at the Christmas party.

Of those who had taken time off around Christmas, one in five did so to secure a GP appointment, and more than one in seven used sick leave specifically for mental health or anxiety issues, heightened by the pressures of Christmas. Another common reason for ringing in sick was to look after children during school closures.

One in five respondents also reported lying to their employer about the reasons for taking sick leave around Christmas.

The research found that the younger generations were most likely to take unapproved leave around the festive period.  This group also reported that some flexibility in working was top of their Christmas list when it came to employee benefits. However only 38% of SMEs offer this perk, and more than half of employers never ask what employees want in a benefits package.

Helen Smith, Chief Commercial Officer at Benenden Health, said:

We associate Christmas with joy and celebration, but in reality, it can be a really stressful time at work, especially when employees have a significant amount on their plate both inside and outside the workplace.

“By listening to workers and catering for their unique needs – in this instance, offering flexible working over the festive period, especially for younger employees, or having a suitable healthcare policy in place to allow for easy access to medical appointments and GPs for all the family – can minimise stress, absenteeism and ultimately increase the productivity of a workforce and overall performance of a business.”

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