Can the submillimetre counts and background be produced by applying a locally derived extinction correction to the population of Lyman break galaxies? We investigate the submillimetre emission of two strongly lensed Lyman break galaxies (MS1512+36-cB58 and MS1358+62-G1) and find that the procedure that is used to predict the submillimetre emission of the Lyman break galaxy population overpredicts the observed 850 micron fluxes by a factor of up to 14. This result calls for caution in applying local correlations to distant galaxies. It also shows that large extinction corrections on Lyman break galaxies should be viewed with skepticism. It is concluded that the Lyman break galaxies may contribute to the submillimetre background at the 25 to 50% level. The brighter submillimetre galaxies making up the rest of the background are either not detected in optical surveys, or if they are detected, their submillimetre emission cannot be reliably estimated from their rest-frame ultraviolet properties.