A quarter of UK employees go to the office when they are ill because they have too much work to do, according to a new survey.

The survey, by AXA PPP Healthcare, found that nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of employees go to work despite feeling so unwell they could legitimately stay at home. While 29 per cent said it was because they didn’t want to let their colleagues down, 24 per cent said they had too much work to do. Another 15 per cent said they chose to go in because they were worried that their sick record would be used against them if their employer made redundancies.

One in five of the 2,000 workers surveyed said they had even used up some of their annual leave entitlement to cover up for having to take time off sick.

Dudley Lusted, spokesman for AXA PPP healthcare, said: “Sickness absence is very often due to minor, self-limiting illnesses and, as this survey shows, most employees continue to turn up for work when they’re feeling under the weather.

“It’s wrong to subject hard-working people to over-zealous absence management methods such as having to report in sick to an occupational nurse ‘helpline’ or even be subjected to a lie detector test. Smart employers will make sure their managers are properly trained and supported to manage attendance positively.”

People working in marketing, advertising and PR were most likely to go into work if they were feeling unwell, whereas those in the charity sector and graduate trainees were least likely to soldier on. Women were more likely than men to go into the office if they were ill.

AXA recently called for a redefinition of absence to differentiate between short, medium and long term, as well as better communication between employees, employers and GPs to help better manage workplace absence.

The comments formed part of their response to a national consultation on management of long-term sickness and incapacity to work by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The consultation closed earlier this month and a report is expected to be published in March next year.