With flu and colds spreading through the P.E.I. population, public health officials are asking people to stay home if they are sick, but some workers say that's easier said than done.

Ryan Pineau - Custom

MacPherson, Roche, Smith & Associates encourages staff to stay home when they are sick, says partner Ryan Pineau, but many still feel the pressure to get work done. (CBC)

Ryan Pineau, a partner at MacPherson, Roche, Smith & Associates, a Charlottetown accounting firm, told CBC News five of his company's full-time staff were out sick on Thursday. Staff are encouraged to stay home when they are not well, he said, and are offered sick pay.

But it's tax season, and everyone is aware there is a lot of work to be done.

"They realize it's a tight time of year on deadlines, and they want to work and get stuff off of their desks," said Pineau.

But coming in while sick creates its own problems, said Pineau. Sick workers are not very productive, and they can spread infections to co-workers and clients.

And not all workplaces are as accommodating. Many offer no sick pay, and may pressure workers to come in even when they aren't well. Ethan MacFarlane of Charlottetown left his job at an autobody shop after feeling pressured to work through a bad flu.

"They told me to suck it up, take a Tylenol," said MacFarlane.

"Then I'm just worried about paycheques and all, since they don't pay when you're sick."

That's a problem Elizabeth Jeffery, owner of Little Wonders Early Learning Centre, hopes she has put behind her business.

Until 2010 Jeffery was operating her business on an entirely private basis. She could only afford to offer three sick days a year.

Elizabeth Jeffery

The ability to take sick leave in the child care industry has improved, says Elizabeth Jeffery, owner of Little Wonders Early Learning Centre. (CBC)

Now, as part of a provincial system, not only can she offer 10 sick days but there is also a pool of substitutes she can hire from to cover sick workers.

"Before, when there wasn't the money to pay substitutes and so on, sometimes people would drag themselves into work," said Jeffery.

"Our pay rate wasn't as high at that time either, so it was really difficult to miss a day of work."

Staying home and avoiding spreading infection is important for avoiding the spread of contagious diseases, say public health officials. That is particularly important advice this year, with dozens hospitalized with the flu, and the first whooping cough outbreak on the Island in years.

For mobile device users: In the last year, have you ever gone to work when you were sick?