Nearly two thirds of vets (63%) worked when they didn’t feel well enough in the last year, according to new figures from the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The trade body has now warned the profession that the problem of ‘presenteeism’ could have a longer-term impact on vets’ wellbeing.
The results, from over 1300 responses to the BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, found that the problem is more noticeable amongst locum vets (69% have worked when they’ve not felt well enough) and employees (64%) but is also an issue amongst partners and the self-employed (57%).
It’s also more common for vets in clinical practice (65%) than in non-clinical roles (51%). In all of these sectors over half of vets reported working when they were unwell.
Nearly one in five (18%) of the vets surveyed said they do not take sick leave because they feel uncomfortable doing so. This is more common amongst younger vets (25% of under 35s compared with 19% of 35-54-year olds, and 8% of over 55s) and female vets (21% compared to 11% of male vets).
BVA President Daniella Dos Santos, said: “We know that veterinary workplaces are under enormous pressure from staff shortages, and none of us wants to feel like we are letting our colleagues down, but presenteeism only stores up more problems for the future.
“Working when you are ill puts your own health and wellbeing at risk longer term and can also put your colleagues, clients and patients under your care at risk.”
She added: “It’s particularly worrying that some of our colleagues feel pressure to work when they feel unwell, especially younger members.
“As a profession we have made huge steps forward in recognising the issues around mental health and supporting one another and being physically unwell should be the same.”