Which gender takes more sick leave during their working life? It could be a thing to consider on the hiring process. No employer would like to hire someone who is often absent.
Women often claim that men are prone to exaggerating ‘man flu’. But women’s dedication puts men in the shade. The findings suggest that women become ill more regularly than men.
A survey has confirmed that men spend an average of 140 days off sick during their working lives, while women stay at home on 189 occasions. In the survey, 1,000 men and 1,000 women were asked about their attitude towards feeling ill and taking time off work.
It found the average adult takes three-and-a-half days off work a year because of illness. Four in ten men call in sick the moment they feel under the weather, the survey showed.
Just three in ten women ring the office as soon as they feel unwell. But while eight in ten men said they tried their best to make it into work, nine in ten women went to the extra effort. And while only half of men worried about their workload when off sick, two in three women did. The same proportion of women felt guilty about staying at home, compared with just a third of men.
Lawrence Christensen, of the Benenden Healthcare Society, which commissioned the survey, said: ‘Our research shows a difference between the sexes when it comes to sick leave. While men are less likely to shake off man flu and go to work, women do end up taking more sick days across their careers. They might get ill more often, but women come out on top when it comes to dedication to work.’
The study also found that 70 per cent of women feel unable to take any time off work, compared with 60 per cent of men.
Women have also been at their desks when they felt they should have been at home resting eight times on average in the past year, compared with six times for men. Men are more likely to ring in sick with minor illnesses such as hayfever, sore throat and headache, while women are more likely to succumb to symptoms such as vomiting, flu and a temperature.
But one in four women admitted faking an illness to get a day off work, compared with only one in five men.
Dr Tony Williams, of Benenden Hospital in Cranbrook, Kent, said: ‘Everyone who goes off sick does so for a reason, but the reason is not always related to disease or illness.
Women are usually the principal carer for children and if a child is sick they may take time off “sick” to look after the child.
On a newer and larger version official survey, the findings are the same. Women are much more likely than men to take time off work sick. It said more than a third of women, over 36 per cent, were absent from work on sickness grounds in the year before they were questioned. But only just over 28 per cent of men called in sick over the previous year.
The findings from the large-scale European Health Interview Survey put forward no explanation for the ‘sickie’ gender gap. However, analysts believe the main reason women are more likely to stay at home is not because they are sick, but because their children are.
Millions of working mothers who need to stay at home to look after children who fall ill are unlikely to admit the real reason they take time off work, it is claimed.
Asked if they had taken time off from work for health reasons over the previous 12 months, 28.2 per cent of men said yes, but 36.2 per cent of women.
The figures mean the sickie gender gap is running at a 28 per cent difference in the likelihood of men or women taking time off work with ill-health.
The reason for the difference is unlikely to be any greater vulnerability to illness among women or reluctance to take time off work among men, analysts believe. But some think there is a strong probability that women are more likely than men to stay home when their children are sick.
Mothers may be more likely than fathers to throw a sickie at work when their children are ill and off school, and mothers of young children are also likely to stay at home to care for young children sent home from a nursery or by a childminder because they are ill.
Researcher and author on the family Jill Kirby said: ‘The gap between the chances of women and men taking time off work will increase with every government policy for the family that forces mothers back to work, or pushes them back to their job earlier than they would wish.
‘The pressures on working mothers just get worse. Working mothers have little choice – they have to take time off when their children are sick. The answer to this is to start giving mothers more choice about looking after their own children, especially since that is what so many want to do.’
The survey showed that although women are much more likely than men to take time off work sick, they also return to work more quickly.
Of those who said they had gone sick over the past year, men on average took 16 days off, while women typically took 14.