Money > Health: 2 in 3 ill workers say inflation keeps them from calling out sick

NEW YORK — In addition to pressures from the ongoing pandemic, inflation, and a surge of layoffs, Americans – and especially people of color – are now even more reluctant to take time off from work when they’re sick. A new poll of 2,000 employed Americans found that 41 percent “always” or “often” work while sick because they cannot afford to take a sick day from their job. Another 64 percent say taking a sick day would cause financial strain.

Overall, 67 percent of those polled say inflation makes them less likely to take an unpaid sick day, as they have become more concerned about financial security.

People of color are much less likely to call out from work than their White counterparts. Latina women, for example, are more hesitant than White women to take a sick day from work (71% vs. 52%) due to ongoing layoffs.

Overall, layoffs throughout the U.S. are making 62 percent of employees more reluctant to take a sick day, even if one is available to them.

Workers also don’t want criticism from their bosses

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Theraflu, the survey reveals that two in three people have avoided calling out sick from work for fear of being reprimanded by their employer or company — a big increase compared to a duplicate OnePoll survey from August 2021 (67% vs. 58%). Compared to 2021, the fear of being punished for taking sick leave has increased by 28 percent among Latina women, who are more likely than White women to express this concern (77% in 2022 vs. 60% in 2021).

Age is also a factor — older working Americans (ages 58–76) are less likely than their younger counterparts (18–25) to take time off from work when sick, due to the possible financial implications (51% vs. 36%).

The study reports that 63 percent of employees feel guilty for taking sick time due to staff shortages. Additionally, 60 percent feel actively discouraged by their workplace to call out to take care of themselves — 20 percent more than in 2021.

“Our research continues to show that many Americans are still not taking the proper time to rest and recover when they’re sick due to financial barriers and the cultural stigmas associated with sick days,” says Sameer Rabbani, Marketing Lead, Respiratory Health at Haleon, in a statement. “We’re fighting to create a flu safe world and a large part of that is ensuring people can take the sick time they need.”

Even with many employers offering work-from-home options due to the pandemic, the poll results reveals that a stigma in taking sick days remains, even on non-commute days. Compared to 2021, researchers did not see a change in the number of people who can work from home and feel obligated to work remotely rather than take a sick day, unless they have tested positive for COVID-19 (68%).

Caring for others is also a factor in employees taking sick time from work. Compared to last year, Latina women (55% vs. 18%) and Black women (36% vs. 23%) were much more likely to take three to four sick days to care for a loved one.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself for your own health, as well as that of your loved ones,” Rabbani says. “The ability to rest and recover should be a right – not a privilege.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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