Most UK employees with in-person roles say they can’t afford time off sick due to money worries, according to new research by HR software provider Ciphr into the impact of the continuing cost-of-living crisis.

The survey of 1,000 UK employees found that fear of losing wages has pushed two-thirds (64%) of those that are required to work in-person to go to work when they were sick because they couldn’t afford not to (up from 55% in 2022). Around two-fifths of remote and hybrid workers (38%) also report doing the same (up slightly from 36% in 2022).

Women based in their employer’s office or business premises appear more likely than their male counterparts to report having worked through illness in the last six months (68% of surveyed women vs 58% of surveyed men).

Meanwhile, those employed in retail and hospitality, are, at least statistically, the most likely to go to work when they are unwell because they can’t afford to take time off sick. Around four in five workplace-based employees in these two industries (81% and 78% respectively) admit to working through illness. Worryingly, well over half (60%) of in-person workers in healthcare and social assistance also do the same.

Survey respondents (by industry) that have worked through illness because of money worries in 2023:

  • Retail: 81% of in-person workers
  • Hotel and food service: 78%
  • IT and software: 70%
  • Wholesaling: 62%
  • Healthcare and social assistance: 60%
  • Manufacturing: 60%
  • Education: 58%
  • Government and public administration: 58%
  • Construction: 57%
  • Transportation and warehousing: 55%
  • Finance and insurance: 40%

The results suggest that many of the employees surveyed are not necessarily entitled to company or contractual sick pay, as that’s often triggered from the first day of sick leave. They may have to rely on statutory sick pay (SSP) instead. For employees that work at organisations that only pay in line with SSP rules, they must be off work sick for three days unpaid before qualifying to receive any money, which likely adds to their financial strain.

More generally, Ciphr’s findings from its latest cost-of-living survey reveal that most people (regardless of where or how they work) are now being negatively impacted, in some way, by rising living costs in 2023.

Months of record inflation and soaring prices have caused many of those surveyed to experience stress (76% of all respondents), lose sleep (52%), and struggle to pay their bills or buy food (43%).

Faced with declining real incomes and mounting expenses, almost half (46%) of all respondents have taken on additional hours at work, one in five (19%) now has a second job for extra income, and one in three (34%) has been actively job hunting (a further one in six are also considering looking for a higher salaried role).

Commenting on the results, Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says:

It is concerning to see that more and more employees are feeling compelled to work when they may not be well enough to do so, due to the financial impact of taking time off. Some of these workers may not be entitled to statutory sick pay under the current SSP system, while others simply can’t afford to live on the current rates of SSP pay, or wait the qualifying time to get it. It’s something that’s in urgent need of reform, and employers may need to consider the moral stance they want to take on this, as part of their wider social responsibility.

Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr

Ciphr’s cost of living survey was conducted in June 2023. Over half (57%) of respondents are 100% workplace or office-based, over a third (34%) work in-person and remotely (hybrid), and one in 11 (9%) are fully remote. The full results are available at

Joanne Swann, Content Manager, WorkWellPro
Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.