Presenteeism Rife As Vast Majority Of Sick Staff Don’t Take Time Off

In Business, Industry News, Protection by Stephen Ellis

A whopping 88% of employees went to work while they were sick in 2017, a new poll has revealed.

The survey of 1,001 workers by Canada Life Group Insurance found that 47% did not take a single sick day last year and that’s not simply because they weren’t sick. In fact, despite feeling unwell, 53% of employees felt their sickness did not justify time off work.

But why?

Well, according to the poll, a quarter of workers said their workload was too large for them to take even a single day off, while 9% actually admitted that they did not feel secure enough in their roles to take a day off sick. A further 19% said they would be viewed as weak by their employers; 17% thought they would be labelled lazy; and 15% thought people would think they were inconsiderate.

On the flip side, just 17% of employees believed they would be viewed as sensible or genuine, and 15% as honest. While these figures show there is hope for casting sickness days in a positive light, they need to be higher going forward.

Sickness Absence At Record Low

According to figures released earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics, sickness absence in 2017 fell to a record low, with employees taking 4.1 days of sickness absence, on average, last year. This figure compares with 7.2 days back in 1993 when records began.

Now, while this might appear to be a good thing for businesses on the face of it, there’s a good chance it could be an indication that presenteeism is on the rise.

Speaking about the findings of the survey, Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said: “Presenteeism is a vicious cycle; the drive to remain in the office can cause illness to spread, or end up leading to a longer recovery time… Failing to take a sick day can have a significant impact on business performance as employees fail to recuperate properly. As well as changing perceptions, employers can offer much more to support staff when they are unwell.”

In terms of initiatives that would improve the mental health and wellbeing of employees, 28% said flexible working would help, while 19% said access to better support programmes, like an employee assistance programme – would be helpful.

For a number of years, we used the term ‘presenteeism’ without perhaps understanding what the long term implications could be. With the development of mobile technology, which is only 10 years old and arguably in its infancy, the pressure to work when poorly will potentially increase.

With most employees not having access to Group Income Protection, which includes a range of tools to help manage these pressures, I believe that if this trend continues, it will severely affect the long term health of the nation in terms of illness and profitability. Especially within SME’s where absence can have a devastating impact on a company’s performance.

Stephen joined Premier Choice in 2006 as a Group Risk consultant and became Head of Group Risk in June 2013. In December 2017, Stephen also took over responsibility for the Protection division within Premier Choice and works to grow this in the same way he has the Group Risk division. Protection is a specialist area and fits well with his experience and expertise in the group risk market.