London - Workers over 50 are four times less likely to ‘pull a sickie’ than younger staff, a study shows.
Older employees, dubbed ‘the reliables’, were half as likely to take a genuine sick day – and far less likely to fake an illness, researchers said.
A survey revealed that over the past five years 44 percent of workers aged 20-39 had lied to their boss about being ill to get time off, compared with just 12 percent of those over 50.
Nearly a third of under-40s saw sick leave as an “additional holiday” that they deserve. Only four percent in the older category agreed.
More mature workers appear to be healthier than their younger colleagues – or more reluctant to take time off when they are actually poorly.
In the past year, only a quarter of over-50s took days off work due to a genuine illness, compared with almost half of those aged 20-39. Among those who had taken a sick day after falling ill, a third of under-40s said this was due to a common cold, compared with one in ten older workers.
The survey of 2 000 working adults, by insurance firm RIAS, found more than half of younger employees who had a sick day admitted taking off more time than necessary. Only a tenth of older employees said the same.
RIAS suggested older workers were keen to make the “best impression” and hold on to their jobs as they approached retirement. It also said older employees may look after themselves better, resulting in fewer genuine sick days.
The firm’s Peter Corfield said: “Over-50s workers continue to be a vital part of the British workforce and they should be recognised for the contribution they make.
“They bring a wealth of experience, ambition and knowledge that cannot be underestimated. It is key that we understand that workers in their 50s and 60s are not ‘old’, they are hardworking and dedicated, and very much want to work.
“The added benefit to UK business in employing more mature workers is that if they take less time off sick, businesses will save a small fortune in lost sick days every year.”
Lisa Harris, from over-50s specialist firm Saga, said: “This research clearly shows why those employers that discriminate against older workers for fear of them falling ill are blatantly wrong.
“Not only do older workers have a wealth of experience to offer employers they are often exceptionally reliable.”
She added: “With people expected to work well into their late 60s, employers really need to take their blinkers off and do more to help encourage older workers to stay in or return to the workforce.
“Not only can they share their skills and knowledge, they can also share their work ethic with any younger colleagues who may be tempted to swing the lead.”
Despite a seemingly better work ethic, a recent study showed more than one million over-50s have been forced to stop working as some employers continue to discriminate against older staff.
Academics claimed “older workers are being failed at every turn” and find it harder both to “keep their jobs and find suitable employment after job loss”.
The report, compiled by the Prince of Wales’s charity Business in the Community, and entitled The Missing Million, claimed “over a million older people have been pushed out of the labour market for reasons beyond their control”.
Its authors said there was a misconception that older employees are simply “biding their time until retirement”.
They said older people who lose their job “are just as likely as other age groups to look for another one”.