Is presenteeism an issue for your business?

In addition to CV-Library’s recent news that employees feel their workplaces are becoming stricter, new research from company has uncovered that a large proportion of UK employees go to work when they’re sick, despite openly admitting that they are less productive, and actually of no benefit to their employer.

Many employees have reported that their employer has increasingly high expectations of them, with many putting in long hours and contending with increased workloads. And in a worrying revelation, it’s now been revealed that over two thirds (67.5%) of employees go into work when they’re unwell, with 68.3% admitting that their main motivation for doing so was feeling guilty for taking days off sick. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was also revealed that the average employee only takes between one to two sick days per year (66.4%).

The study, which looked at responses from over 1,300 UK workers revealed that despite such a large proportion going into work when they feel unwell, a staggering 86.5% of employees confessed to feeling much less productive at work, with 83.8% suggesting that it’s actually unbeneficial for businesses to have staff in the workplace when they’re unwell.

Furthermore, despite the fact that a huge 84.3% of workers believe that they should not go into work when they’re sick, over half (54.6%) reported that their employer doesn’t send them home when they’ve been unwell at work.

So, what can be done to tackle the problem?

The reality is that staff productivity and wellbeing are key contributors to the success of any business, and this is why it’s so important to promote best practice in the workplace. Ultimately, breeding a culture that encourages people to come to work when they’re sick is not beneficial to employees or businesses, and if staff are genuinely ill, their employer should advise them to go home and recover. This means that they can then return to work happy, engaged and ready to make a valuable contribution to the business.

Even more worryingly, over a third of employees admitted that their managers often put pressure on them to return to work early, while a further 44.7% said that their employer actually questions their sickness when they’re ill. Worse still, it appears that over half (52.9%) of managers still contact their employees whilst they are off sick, adding extra pressure and not affording staff the time off and space to relax and recover.

The bottom line is that managers do and should play an important role in reassuring staff that taking time out to recuperate is perfectly acceptable, but it’s clear from our research that the majority of workers do feel the pressure from the top to come back to work before they’re ready, and this is often something that’s engrained into the company culture.

While it might be annoying for businesses to run on a lower headcount, especially if the business is in its early stages, in the long run it’s actually better that poorly employees are not in the office; germs are contained and staff recover more quickly, meaning that the hours they do spend at work are much more productive, and there is less risk that the infection will spread and affect other members of the team.

In addition to exploring employee attitudes around sick days, the research also touched on the topic of sickness entitlements, revealing that only half (55.9%) of companies offer sick pay, ultimately placing many of the nation’s workers in a financial dilemma if they are ill but unable to afford the time off. Comparatively, a whopping 94.3% of workers believe that all businesses should continue to pay their employees when they’re off sick.

Understandably, some employers are wary that staff could take advantage of sick pay by taking time off when they’re perfectly fit to attend work, however, offering sickness entitlements are often seen as a positive move by employees, as it shows that their employer cares about them and their wellbeing.

Failing to offer sick pay can actually end up forcing staff who are genuinely sick to come into work and share their germs, when they’d likely be better off wrapped up in bed. By offering a small sickness entitlement and then tracking absence through the year, businesses can reassure staff and ensure that business efficiency and productivity remains high.  


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