21.7 Million people have worked whilst under the weather

Over the last two years, more than two-thirds (68%) of UK workers - equating to 21.7 million people - have continued to work while feeling unwell, according to new research conducted by Canada Life.1

 When asked about the reasons for working while feeling unwell, 25%2 said their workload is or has been too heavy and 23% feel like too many people rely on them to warrant taking time off. Other reasons are that workers:

  • Do not want to give their colleagues more work to do - 22%
  • Can work from home, so they still feel they need to, or can, work when unwell - 17%
  • Are made to feel guilty by other colleagues / senior members of staff for taking time off work - 13%
  • Do not feel secure enough in their job to take time off work - 9%

For those workers who did call in sick, nearly one in 10 (8%) have had their illness or inability to work questioned by their manager.

 Financial concerns sway people from taking time off sick

Within the last two years 18% UK workers have worked through illness because of the financial consequences of taking time off, and 10% are not taking time off because they are worried about not getting paid.

 Dan Crook, Interim MD Group Protection, Canada Life, comments: “Presenteeism is alive and well, as shown by the significant number of workers not taking the time off to allow themselves to recover when ill. There is no doubt that this is in part being driven by an uncertain economic climate, and employers must recognise that their employees may have greater anxieties around losing their job.  Fostering a workplace culture where employees feel at ease to take sick leave and step away from their day to day priorities to focus on their wellbeing, without questioning or hesitation, is key.

“Employees must also understand the importance of taking time off, and employers have a role to play in facilitating this. Recognising this, policies such as Group Income Protection, Group Critical Illness and Group Life Insurance demonstrates a commitment to not only their employees’ wellbeing and financial security, but equally that of their family too.”




Notes to editors

  1.  Survey conducted by Opinium among a nat rep sample of 2000 UK adults between 10 - 14 November 2023
  2. Respondents were able to select more than one option.


Press enquiries should be directed to:

Lizzie Murray, Vested, 07914 698 310, canadalife@fullyvested.com

Elle McAtamney, Canada Life, 07913 568213, elle.mcatamney@canadalife.co.uk

About Canada Life

Canada Life is part of a group of companies controlled by Great-West Lifeco Inc., a diversified financial services holding company headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada. Through its subsidiary companies, Great-West Lifeco has operations in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Great-West Lifeco and its insurance subsidiaries have received strong ratings from major rating agencies.  Great-West Lifeco has over 38 million customers worldwide and £1.532trillion assets under administration (as at 31 December 2022).

Canada Life Limited began operations in the United Kingdom in 1903 and looks after the retirement, investment and protection needs of individuals and companies alike. As well as providing stability and security through its individual contracts, Canada Life Limited has grown and maintained its position as the market leading provider of group insurance solutions.1 Canada Life acquired Retirement Advantage on 3rd January 2018 for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition added over 30,000 retirement income and equity release customers and more than £2 billion of assets under management including a £1.5 billion block of in-force annuities to Canada Life.

Canada Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Canada Life International Limited and CLI Institutional Limited are Isle of Man registered companies authorised and regulated by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority. Canada Life International Assurance Limited and Canada Life International Assurance (Ireland) DAC are authorised and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Stonehaven UK Limited, registered in England and Wales no. 05487702. Registered office: Canada Life Place, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 5BA.

Stonehaven UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.


  1. Canada Life MI & Swiss Re, 2022