Is it time to shake off the expectation of coming to work while ill – especially when it risks lives on our roads?
We’re well into flu season now and with so many colds and other bugs going around many people have already found themselves coming down with illnesses this winter. With reports saying that the flu and colds cost the British economy £1.35 billion each year, are we putting too much pressure on employees to work and commute while sick?
Drivers suffering from illnesses such as heavy colds could be at greater risk of road accidents as their reaction times are longer, concentration is reduced and judgement is impaired.
Even dosed up drivers can be a danger – with certain medications having adverse side effects such as drowsiness.
Why Do Drivers Take The Risk?
People who drive while unwell are likely to do so because they need to get to work, and studies have shown that many people still come to work due to deadlines, fear of redundancy, or because they worry colleagues will think they are "weak" for taking "unnecessary" time off.
Motorists may not realise the risks they are taking and the negative effect illness can have on their driving, but driving with a heavy cold can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
So what can be done to reduce these risks?
Besides drivers exercising good judgement when deciding whether to make the journey, employers could do more to encourage staff to not come in if they are unwell. This would also benefit the business by reducing the spread of illnesses so they have fewer absences across their whole staff team. Keeping unwell employees away from the office is in everyone’s best interests. The government and safe driving charities could also promote public awareness to help people make better decisions when unwell.
Providing more flexible working options for those who can work from home when ill (but probably shouldn't be driving) would also go some way to remove the stigma of illness.
Mark Bower-Dyke, chairman of Be Wiser Insurance, comments:
“Drivers could be risking their lives by driving in an unfit state. It’s important for people and employers to be aware of the dangers of a "sick commute" and make allowances. Motorists who do decide to drive should always read the labels on any medication they decide to take, and if in doubt, avoid driving until they are better.”