Workplace Illness or Illusion ?

Most of us know or hear from friends/spouses about a co-worker who is always ill or not in tip top shape during the work week; yet, they seem to chipper up for the weekends.  Why is this?  Are they just faking it?

Well, Personnel Today has delved into the controversial question:  Is it Illness or Illusion?

Many of us tend to believe that for the most part people are just faking it.  Why not; if you make it to work, then why can’t someone else?  Contrary to this popular belief, new data, based on UK agencies and statistics, indicates that only a minority of people applying for employment and support allowance claims are being deceptive.

So what constitutes “illness deception” ?  

It is described as the “general concept of ‘simulation’ covering deception, dissimulation and faking as well as that described as ‘malingering’ which refers to the conscious and deliberate invention of a physical or mental disorder, or the attribution of an existing incapacity to an accident or illness which was not actually its cause, in order to derive some personal benefit”  (Caro et al, 2005).

The main assessment for employment and support allowance claims and the fit-for-work tests, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), is under attack for being too soft and too hard in equal measure.

A Guardian newspaper article claimed “it’s the tests that deceive, not the people claiming benefits…think of a 16th-century witchcraft trial, take away transparency and public approval, and you have it about right”.

The author of that article claimed that individuals with real issues such as serious mental health issues are tested too rigorously and people who should be tested rigorously find it way to easy to abuse the system and collect benefits unnecessarily.  As low as 8% of all cases studied in a general occupational medicine clinic setting (in the UK) exhibited behavior in keeping with illness deception.

It is important not to confuse illness deception with “factitious disorder” (previously known as Münchausen Syndrome), which is a recognized mental health disorder.

  So where do these discrepancies take place? 

According to Personnel Today, it has become common practice for occupational health to challenge GP decisions on suitability for work; and it is the employer’s prerogative which advice they take into account.  GPs are self-reported advocates of the “patient” whereas an OH professional can offer an independent review with knowledge of the workplace and opportunities for adjustments and rehabilitation.

How about YOU, do you fake it or make it?  

Just remember:  “Showing up is half the battle” ! 


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