UCL Institute of Health Informatics


New Paper: Do people with symptoms of an infectious illness follow advice to stay at home?

27 June 2022

The CORSAIR team investigate using a series of cross-sectional surveys about presenteeism in the UK. Published May 2022.

3 covid masks hanging down

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people in the UK who developed a new continuous cough, a fever or a loss or change to their sense of taste or smell have been urged to stay at home. But this was only one aspect of the UK government’s plan to ease pressure on the National Health Service. People were also asked "to stay at home if you are feeling unwell", even in the absence of a positive COVID-19 test. This was to reduce the spread of influenza-like illness in workplaces and reinforced pre-existing advice to stay off work or school when ill.

But how many people actually followed this advice? The CORSAIR team led by Prof James Rubin, including IHI's Prof Henry Potts, investigated this by looking at survey responses from 8547 people, collected across the UK from September to November 2021. 498 participants reported one or more symptoms and had not had a positive COVID-19 test result. Within that group, about half of employed participants attended work while symptomatic.

Many people in the UK with symptoms of an infectious disease were not following government advice to stay at home if they believed they had an infectious illness. Reducing these rates may require a shift in our national attitude to the acceptability of people attending work with infectious illnesses.

Read the full paper