A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 13, 2016

Why Three Out of Four Workers Say They Still Go To Work When Sick

Basically, they either cant afford to because they don't get sick days or, even if they do, they fear the consequences if they take time off. JL

Lily Martis reports in Fast Company:

High job demands and job insecurity were cited as some of the top reasons people show up to work when they are ill. Four in ten say they come to work sick because they have deadlines or would have too much to make up when they return after a sick day. One-quarter claim they go to work sick because their boss expects them to show up no matter what. One-third said they can’t afford to miss work (because they) don’t get paid for sick days.

The odds of you getting sick this year fall somewhere between 5% and 20%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the dreaded cold and flu season approaching, many Americans with fevers, coughs, and runny noses will be forced to make a decision: Go to work sick, as miserable as that may be? Or stay home to get better, but make your life miserable when you return with all the catching up you’ll have to do?
Well, according to our recent poll of more than 23,800 workers across North America and Europe, the vast majority of people (75%) would choose the former. In the survey, conducted globally, we found 20% of respondents said they always go to work when they’re ill, and 55% of respondents said they’d only take a sick day if their symptoms are severe. Just one-quarter of the respondents said they’d stay home and either work from home (10%) or take the day off (15%).
If you think you’re starting to show symptoms of "Go-to-workitis," a disease marked by the compulsion to head in when you’re head’s completely stuffed up, you can watch the video below to help you determine whether you should just tell your boss you’re taking the day off or suck it up and get to work.

Why Do They Do It?

There are a number of reasons people head to work armed with a bag of cough drops and a box of tissues. High job demands and job insecurity were cited as some of the top reasons people show up to work when they are ill, according to a 2014 survey by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
Four in ten American workers say they come to work sick because they have deadlines or would have too much work to make up when they return to the workplace after a sick day, according to the NSF survey. One-quarter claim they go to work sick because their boss expects them to show up no matter what. If that’s the case, then you might want to find a job that offers paid sick leave.
And if you do take a sick day, that doesn’t mean your boss or coworkers are going to take it as a sign of weakness, Monster Careers Expert Vicki Salemi says.
"You seriously need your bed and nothing but your bed when you’re sick," she says. "I’ve seen colleagues go into work to prove something to themselves (and perhaps to show their boss how sick they really were) only for the boss to say, ‘Go home, get better.’ Although there are some bosses and coworkers who may think nothing of working through an illness, the reality is you have the right as an employee to set your own boundaries and know what you’re capable of."
Money can be an issue, too. For some, not showing up for work can mean not getting paid. About one-third of those surveyed by NSF said they can’t afford to be sick and miss work, which you can chalk up to the fact that the same number of workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, don’t get paid for sick days.

What Should You Do If You’re Sick?

The last place you want to be when you’re sick is at your desk. But the call is totally up to you.
"People’s systems are all different, whether you’re coming down with a cold, in a full-on cold or recuperating from the flu—this is all subjective," Salemi says. "That said, when you wake up and literally can’t get out of bed, head is stuffy, can’t focus your eyes, that’s a sign to absolutely stay at home."
But you definitely shouldn’t let it get to that point.
"Sometimes you don’t want to wait for a full-on cold or flu to emerge and you’ll know the signs," Salemi says. "It’s best to stay home then, and if you have to take an additional sick day beyond that, so be it."Part of taking care of yourself means surrendering to the fact that you’re too sick to get to the office and get work done like you usually would. So when you tell your boss, keep it simple. Nobody wants to hear about the grimy conditions you’re in.
"Your boss’s reaction should be one of understanding and compassion," Salemi says, "especially when taking one day can save you an entire week ahead of being on the sidelines."
If you absolutely must go into work when you’re sick, the National Sanitation Foundation has some advice for you.
"If you are sick, try to stay home and rest at the onset of your symptoms when you are most contagious," Rob Donofrio, microbiologist at NSF International, said in a press release. "However, if you must go into work, be conscientious of those around you. Fully cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands often, disinfect areas you come into contact with—especially in common areas—and try to keep your distance from coworkers."
However, if you’re just plain sick of your job, you can look for a better one.
Ikea just announced it is giving all of its 13,000 U.S employees (both mothers and fathers) up to four months of paid parental leave, no matter how many hours they work. That means both part-time and full time staff who’ve put in at least a year with the home furnishings retailer get their full base pay for the first six weeks and half of their base pay for the next six weeks of leave. And those who've worked at Ikea for three or more years will get eight weeks of full pay and another eight weeks for half their base pay.

The Imbalance Of Paid Parental Leave

This is a big deal, because even though there's been a raft of announcements by companies introducing or extending their paid parental leave programs, the benefits usually only cover birth mothers in higher wage industries like finance (see: AMEX’s latest announcement that ups paid leave to 20 weeks).
For example, in contrast to tech companies’ policies such as Spotify’s and Etsy’s of up to six months of paid parental leave, hospitality chain Choice Hotels (parent of Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge, and others) announced in September that it would offer up to four weeks of parental leave for either parent and 12 weeks for new mothers at full pay. A spokesperson for Choice Hotels told me at that time that the policy would only apply to the 400 employees at its Maryland-based headquarters and not the housekeeping or other staff. Polices like that leave out thousands of employees. The chain has more than 6,400 franchised properties in more than 40 countries.
We know that the U.S. lags behind almost all other countries that provide federally mandated paid leave. Some cities and states have implemented their own legislation, but the Department of Labor estimates that only 12% of U.S. employees get paid leave through their employers.
Although these benefits cost companies money, both research and anecdotal reporting from the likes of Google, Change.org, 15Five, and others make a strong case that not offering paid parental leave comes at a higher cost for employers. Now a new report from Visier, a cloud-based workforce intelligence company, extends the implications even further. The findings in Visier’s Gender Equity report suggest that offering paternal leave policies like Ikea’s could also close the gender pay gap.

A Hidden Factor In The Wage Gap

To reach that conclusion, Visier used aggregated and anonymized workforce data from large U.S.-based employers that collectively employ 165,000 workers. Industries range from health care, technology, financial services and insurance to energy and manufacturing.
Questions for data analysis included, ‘What is the salary for women at different ages?’ and results were validated by comparing them to publicly available measures, such as those from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The concern with salaries, the report’s authors write, is:
Despite decades of tracking and research, publicly available benchmark data on gender equity is limited: You can get a picture of workforce composition, see how many women compared to men hold various roles, and compare average weekly salaries by gender and occupation, but the ability to examine the data from multiple dimensions to uncover new findings is highly constrained. As a result, there has been limited insight into why the gap exists and persists, which can guide companies and policy makers on how to close the wage gap.
PayScale just released the results of its sweeping analysis of the gender wage gap and the complexity of trying to narrow it down to just one cents-on-the-dollar figure. It found that in their early careers, workers are generally in roles as individual contributors who don’t supervise other employees. That changes with age as men are 25% more likely to enter management roles between the ages of 35 and 40 and are 85% more likely to be vice presidents or C-suite executives by mid-career.

The Manager Divide

Visier’s report also revealed an age-related gap. Women earned 90¢ on the dollar up until their early 30s, after which the wage gap widened to 82¢ on the dollar by age 40, exposing a direct correlation between the so-called Manager Divide, a growing gap in the percentage of men and women in management positions from age 32 onwards, with a drop in women’s wages across education levels and occupations. The report concluded that eliminating the Manager Divide would cut the gender wage gap by nearly one-third.
The authors pointed out that this is not a generational issue, nor does it reflect the hard work and achievements of older generations of women to achieve equity. Why they’re sure it’s not is because the findings show that women appear to be leaving and rejoining the workforce, and participating at higher rates after age 50 than before age 30. The wage gap actually narrowed among workers over 55.
Furthermore, they note: "We also did not see a bias for men in performance evaluations. In fact, women generally received higher performance evaluations than their male counterparts across all age groups." In fact, women are promoted at the same rate as men during their early 30s, but men are more likely to have direct reports.
As Josie Sutcliffe, vice president of marketing for Visier, tells Fast Company, "The Manager Divide is about a women being underrepresented in positions in which they have responsibility for one or more direct reports and occurs during the years in which women are most likely to have young children. This impacts their earning potential, as managers on average earn twice that of non-managers."
By scaling up the fraction of female workers who are managers to match that of male workers who are managers, and applying the female manager salaries to this artificially generated population of female managers, the gender wage gap between all male and female workers was cut nearly in half for employees over age 32.

How Gender-Neutral Policy Impacts Salaries

But back to Ikea, an oft-cited Swedish study on paid parental leave, and the potential impact on the U.S. gender wage gap. In its home country, Ikea employees get 68 weeks of paid parental leave. The gender-neutral policy was implemented in 1995 when the country introduced a monetized incentive for fathers to take parental leave. Since then, analysis shows that there’s been a 7% increase in a mother’s future earnings for each additional month of parental leave a father takes.
That’s because they’re less likely to resign if their partners are available and encouraged to take time off as well. Visier’s research found that between the ages of 25 and 40, women experience increased child care demands that correlate with an increase in the number of women resigning. This reduces female representation in manager positions that results in a greater gender wage gap.
Sutcliffe says that Visier’s research was not focused specifically on lower-wage or part-time workers, such as those who are now covered by Ikea’s new U.S. policy. But she maintains that the Manager Divide is still an important consideration in gender equity, as is paid parental leave that is socially acceptable for both fathers and mothers to take.
"Whether individual women aspire to team lead, supervisor, or management roles or not, or whether they work full- or part-time," she says, "ensuring both men and women have equal opportunity to take on manager roles can reduce the overall gender-wage gap by up to 50%."


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