Most U.S. Workers Report to Work Sick, Survey Shows

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR May 22, 2009

U.S. workers say they continue to go to work sick, despite widespread news reports about the swine flu virus and a growing list of flu-related casualties.

According to, 71 percent of nearly 12,000 U.S. workers who visited the site and responded to a Monster Meter poll between May 11 and May 18, 2009, said they report to work even when ill.

"Of those who go to work sick, 33 percent fear losing their job if they take a sick day, while 38 percent admit their workload is too busy to take a day off from work even when they are ill," said Norma Gaffin, director of career content,, in a statement.

Nearly one out of five respondents to the Monster Meter poll said they stay home from work when sick in order to rest up and get well. And one in 10 compromises by avoiding the workplace and working from home when ill.

Monster notes that the poll is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate.

As reported on SHRM Online, nearly half of 605 employees selected randomly to participate in a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) poll conducted in January 2009 said they “frequently” (17 percent) or “occasionally” (31 percent) report to work sick.

Among the top reasons employee respondents gave SHRM for working when ill were the lack of a replacement to cover for them, cited by 48 percent of respondents, and workload or deadlines, selected by 39 percent.

More than a quarter told SHRM they could not afford to take time off.

“Whether it's the sniffles or H1N1 swine flu influenza, a recent Associated Press report addressed the fact that, sick or not, many workers cannot afford to stay home when ill because an estimated 57 million working Americans do not have paid sick days,” Monster’s Gaffin added.

But that might change.

As SHRM has reported, on May 18, 2009 Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. introduced the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460), which would require businesses to provide employees seven days of paid sick leave.

“Every worker should have paid sick days; it is a matter of right and wrong,” said DeLauro in a written statement. “With the H1N1 outbreak, countless public health officials urged people to follow a simple guideline: If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Yet for many Americans, following this sound advice is impossible.”

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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