Scottish workers too scared to take sick leave for fear of losing their jobs

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IT has been revealed that growing numbers of the Scottish workforce are too scared to take sick leave for ongoing health problems for fear of losing their jobs.

The main reason for working through pain and illness is down to the recession, which has made the employment market so competitive.

A survey conducted by the Charter

Kirsten Lord, founder of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Physiotherapy Centres

ed Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) showed that almost half of workers in Scotland feel that their bosses do not care about their health, and 35 per cent believe they will be sacked or made redundant for taking time off.

The results also showed that almost a third of respondents experienced physical pain at work at least once a week.

Kirsten Lord, a member of the CSP, and founder of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Physiotherapy Centres, said she frequently treats patients who have ignored the warning signs of conditions like repetitive strain injury, headaches and back and neck pain.

She said: “Not only can longer standing problems take longer to fix, the productivity of that employee at work often suffers.

“It is in the interests of the employer to tackle pain and absenteeism proactively by helping the employee overcome health issues.”

Ms Lord added that as well as endangering their long-term health, it means that common work-related injuries such as those caused by sitting at a computer all day are rarely identified at an early stage.

But, she said that by encouraging staff to seek advice about their niggling aches and pains – or by providing free treatment to their workforces – employers can greatly improve the productivity of their staff, reduced absenteeism and prevent issues such as musculoskeletal injuries arising in the future.

She said: “The fact that many employees are also scared to take sick leave is also worrying, as they risk aggravating their conditions.

“Niggling aches and pains can quickly escalate into much more serious issues if they are left to develop rather than being identified and treated early.

“By ignoring a recurring condition, employees are seriously compromising their own health – and their employers could potentially see lower productivity and even high temporary staffing costs to cover periods of sick leave in the future.

“However, by providing early access to health services such as physiotherapy, you can prevent musculoskeletal disorders from becoming serious long-term problems.

“It’s also a very worrying trend that so many workers believe that their employer doesn’t care about their health – it suggests that the majority of companies don’t listen to their employees, or realise the advantages in doing so.

“The costs of ignoring employee health problems can be hard to analyse – absenteeism, reduced productivity, employment of temporary staff to cover, HR involvement, not to mention a disheartened workforce.

“Providing employees with health checks and the medical help they need will not only impact on the bottom line, it improves the relationship with your employee.

“Having regular checks for staff and encouraging a more open culture so employees feel able to report sickness sooner should help employees avoid serious health issues in the future.”

The CSP report, Sickness Costs, showed that 30 per cent of managers believe staff who call in sick with a recurring condition are well enough to work, but just don’t want to.

And nearly two thirds (63%) of small-to-medium enterprises did not provide any occupational health services for their staff.

As a result of the findings, Ms Lord is offering free on-site physiotherapy clinics to city centre business organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, to enable employers to better identify health problems among their workforces.

The clinics – which have already been successful for organisations like Strathclyde University and British Gas – can be organised through the Edinburgh or Glasgow Physiotherapy Centres, and will allow each member of staff a 10 minute evaluation with a chartered physiotherapist to identify problems.

For more information visit www.edphysio.com

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