Women feel guilty for taking time off sick

25 May

Women struggle to their desks even when ill (istockphoto spepple2)

Women take more sick days in their career than men – 189 days off compared to 140 for men – but women will do their best to make it to their desk when illness strikes, or end up feeling guilty for leaving their colleagues in the lurch.

These are the results from a survey of 1000 people commissioned by Benenden Healthcare Society, which appears to confirm the ‘man flu’ theory, in that a man will typically call in sick the moment he feels ill (four in 10 admitted to doing so in the survey) – whereas a woman will soldier on until she succumbs to the illness. Men tend to be off for minor illnesses, such as a sore throat or headache, whereas women will have  symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

Bosses seem to be less trusting of men, however, and are more likely to call their male employees to check up on them – and men are more likely to avoid calling in and choosing to text or email instead.

Where the real gap in gender behaviour and attitude exists, however, is in how guilty they feel about being off work sick. Two-thirds of women say they feel for taking time off – and 70% feel they’re unable to take any time off work at all. This compares with a third of men who feel guilty, and six in 10 who feel they can’t take time off.

I’ve never been a fan of martyrdom in the office: if someone is ill, they should stay home and get better (as long as they are genuinely ill, of course, or the sickie may be a symptom of some other kind of pressure or under-performance issue). But if the illness is genuine, don’t bring it into the workplace – and don’t waste energy feeling guilty about it, either.

One Response to “Women feel guilty for taking time off sick”


  1. Less presenteeism and more flexibility can help reduce workplace stress « womaneer - 06/10/2011

    […] I’ve never been able to tolerate martyrdom in the office: the people who sniff and shuffle to their desks, struggling through the day, spreading germs as they go – and all because they feel guilty about taking time off. […]

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