According to a recent article published on the HR review website, British workers are the European champion when it comes to taking sick leave. Not only do they take more sick days than their European counterparts, but one out of five of these sick days are not taken for a genuine illness. A high number of British and expat employees living and working in the UK confessed that they feigned illness in order to stay at home or to take care of a relative or friend.
This trend costs the British economy approximately £2.5 billion a year and is a main concern for HR professionals. Some describe it as the main obstacle hindering the economic recovery of the UK. When asked about this phenomenon, half of the Brits surveyed admitted they would not take so many sick days if their working hours were more flexible and if “social days” and more bank holidays were offered on a regular basis like in other Europeans countries such as France or Spain.
So, is living and working in the UK that bad? What happened to the legendary and world-renowned British ability to withstand any type of challenges and difficulties? Do international assignees sent to the UK need to worry about working in British companies?
Indeed, living and working in the UK does come with many challenges. The importance of results and performance in a highly competitive market, the flat hierarchical organisation and the strong sense of responsibility put on each individual are just a few challenges that can induce a high level of stress and make things difficult for international assignees living and working in the UK. But are these challenges really what make British workers take so many sick days?
Some suggest that another key factor leading to this high number of sick days is the “pub culture” which remains really strong in the UK. Going out with friends or colleagues after business hours is still commonplace and is a great way to build relationships with British counterparts when living and working in the UK. This pub culture can lead to hangovers however and people calling in sick to work. This particular aspect of British culture is important for someone who wishes to socialise with his/her colleagues but knowing the possible consequences of this practice is crucial for anyone living and working in the UK.
Managers living and working in the UK or preparing for their international assignment in the UK should also be aware of this trend. Knowing these figures can help them to adapt their management style and motivate their team. Setting up strategies to make the most of motivation drivers in the UK can help international managers to reduce the amount of sick leave taken and consequently improve the efficiency of their teams.
Expatriates living and working in the UK also need to be careful about stereotypes or assumptions they make about British culture. The fact that British workers take more sick leave than other Europeans does not mean that they are lazy or unproductive.
Coping with some of these cultural challenges of living and working in the UK can take time and requires the right cross cultural training and intercultural knowledge. Cross cultural training for relocation courses like Living and Working in the UK can help you to adapt to British business culture and social life. These cross cultural training courses will provide a comprehensive set of cultural tools and strategies that will help any international assignee living and working in the UK manage their team and cope with employee sick leave and any other cultural difference they face.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010