Helen Nugent

‘Pulling a sickie’ doesn’t pay

'Pulling a sickie' doesn't pay
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Ah, the time-honoured tradition of pulling a sickie. It's as old as employment itself and us Brits have forged a reputation for making the most of it.

Everyone's done it, right? That early morning call to your boss, the feeble 'I can't make it in today', the creeping sensation of guilt quickly quashed by the sofa, a duvet and trash TV. Yeah, you've done it.

But are sickness rates really that high? According to XpertHR, sickness absence is an average of 2.8 per cent of working time each year, or 6.5 days. This costs employers an average of £16 billion. Historically, it's the public sector which has suffered from higher rates of sickness absence, compared with the private sector.

Of course, there are many legitimate reasons for being off work so it's impossible to know how many of these lost days are due to hangovers, late nights or a desire to ditch the office without booking legitimate holiday. What is clear is this: pulling a sickie doesn't pay.

New research by Vouchercloud has found that the UK has one of the lowest rates of sick leave pay in Europe. While a number of countries offer generous benefits to employees off sick, the UK fails to pay workers even an average rate for leave.

Check out the map below. UK mandatory sick pay totals just £88.45 a week and, after three 'waiting' days, this totals just £35.96 - a mere 9 per cent of the average weekly salary. Compare this to European countries where the mandatory sick leave payment is 100 per cent of the typical wage - Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Norway all pay out an employee's wage in full for at least a month.

But a month of sick leave doesn’t prove any more lucrative for Britons, as the UK and Ireland still lag behind their European counterparts. The UK pays out just 18 per cent, and Ireland just 12 per cent of the average monthly wage (£305.71 and £201.11 respectively), despite both having a typical monthly wage well above the European average.

Even Bulgaria - with an average wage of £3,896 per year, compared to the UK’s £21,552 - still pays out £55.45 for a week of sick leave, almost £20 more.

Things are even better on the other side of the world. Australia pays out on 10 sick days per year which accumulate, guaranteeing you at least two working weeks’ worth of sick pay every year and £662 for a week of sick leave.

Unsurprisingly, it appears that as a nation we are pretty clueless about sick pay entitlement. A survey by think tank Demos found that 51 per cent of UK respondents believed they would receive full wages during illness. Dream on.

While Vouchercloud's research only applies to statutory sick pay or equivalent (companies are obliged to pay SSP but can also offer higher pay outs and run separate occupational sick pay schemes), it makes for sobering reading. So next time you're tempted by a duvet day, you might want to think again.

Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator