Women under pressure to not use sick leave, survey finds

Nadine Flood: “It is a sign of a system that isn’t working.” Photo: Rohan ThomsonUp to a quarter of women go to work when they are sick, mainly due to heavy workloads and pressure from bosses discouraging them from taking sick leave, the largest survey of women in the workplace has found.

The “What Women Want” study of more than 11,000 women shows that workload pressures, followed by pressure from bosses, are the most common reasons women have given for going to work sick.

Launching the survey, Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood said it showed that nearly nine out of 10 women surveyed went to work sick once or twice a year.

“It is a sign of a system that isn’t working if women are forced to come to work sick either because the boss is putting pressure on them or because that’s the only way that they can get on top of their work,” she said.

The survey also found that almost one in 10 women are working an extra 10 hours a week and more than a quarter said they received no compensation for the extra hours they worked.

More than half the women looking after children were working extra hours.

“The survey results show that many women are continuing to work additional hours just to get all their work done on time and to a proper standard,” the report’s authors said.

“It continues to be of great concern that a significant number of women are unable to get their work done within their normal working hours. The biggest group working really long hours are executive level women, but women across all occupations and classifications find themselves working extra hours just to keep up.

“This suggests that years of budget cuts have led to unreasonable and unachievable workloads for many women.”

Ms Flood said the ageing population was also having an impact on the female workforce.

“Over the past five years, the proportion of working women in our survey who are caring for ageing relatives has increased,” she said.

The proportion of women caring for aged relatives had increased from 51 per cent in 2009 to 58 per cent in 2013.

“This is an important policy issue to be addressed, particularly as these women tended to be aged 45 years or older and will soon be close to retirement themselves.”

The survey for the first time asked women how secure they felt in their job. Just over half (56.4 per cent) said they felt secure or very secure. But a quarter said they felt insecure or very insecure.

The most common reasons women gave for feeling insecure were budget cuts (71.8 per cent), and organisational restructuring (71 per cent).

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