Teachers more likely to work when ill | Education Support
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Teachers more likely to work when ill

23rd October 2019

Nearly half (48%) of all school teachers in England have told us that they ‘always’ feel compelled to come to work even when they feel unwell1 compared to just a quarter (26%) of those working in different industries outside of education2 confirming that presenteeism continues to be a particular issue in the sector.  

Nine out of ten teachers (93%) said they felt compelled to come into work when unwell ‘all,’ ‘most’ or ‘some’ of the time, whilst an average of 8 out of 10 (82%) employees surveyed in other sectors reported doing so.

The study was conducted in partnership with YouGov, across a weighted sample of 1,549 primary and secondary school staff teachers in England.

  • 57% of senior leaders in schools said they would always come into work when feeling unwell, whilst 48% of schoolteachers and 42% of staff working in other roles said they would.
  • Of those who said they considered themselves stressed, 65% of school leaders would always come into work when feeling unwell, compared to 57% of schoolteachers and 47% of staff in other roles.
  • Within different industries, employees who worked in ‘Medical and Health Services’ (16%) and ‘IT and Telecomms’ (19%) had the lowest levels of ‘always’ feeling compelled to come to work when feeling unwell.

The findings follow a report published in 2017 by Deloitte ‘Mental health and employers- the case for investment3, which identified that poor mental health costs the public education sector an average of £1,501 per employee, each year in the UK.

Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support said:

"We know that presenteeism is a very real issue in our schools. If we don’t tackle this as a priority, we can expect the pressing issue of long-term sickness rates amongst teachers to rise over the coming years.

“Whilst knowledge around the root causes of this within schools is still emerging, anecdotally we know that teachers feel a huge amount of guilt and a sense of shame in taking time off, due to the impact they believe this has on their pupils and colleagues.

“It’s crucial, for the sake of individuals and their ability to function and deliver as high-performing professionals, teachers are encouraged to practice self-care.

“In order to facilitate this self-care, it is imperative that schools have the culture and resources to break down outdated perceptions and to remove the stigma that currently exists.”

A study by Gandy et al (2014)4 found that poor wellbeing and high depressive symptoms were both associated with presenteeism among teachers, and individuals with high depressive symptoms were also more than twice as likely to have taken sickness absence in the previous month.

1YouGov, July 2019, a weighted sample of 1,549 teachers

2YouGov Omnibus, September 2019, a weighted sample of 2,273 adults representative of British business size. 

3‘At a tipping point? Workplace mental health and wellbeing’ Deloitte  March 2017 

4Comparing the contribution of wellbeing and disease status to employee productivity.’ March 2014, Journal of occupational and environmental medicine

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