One in three employers have reported an increase in staff going into work whilst they are ill, according to a new survey.
A survey of nearly 600 employers found that nearly a third have seen an increase in so-called ‘presenteeism’, but more than half of those surveyed haven’t taken any steps to discourage it.
Employers who reported an increase in ‘presenteeism’ were also twice as likely to notice an increase in mental health problems amongst their staff, leading to rising levels of stress related absence.
The Absence Management Survey, published today be the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), reveals a worrying culture where turning up for work is seen as more important than employee health and wellbeing.
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “These figures show just how common mental health problems are in the workplace and highlight why it’s so important that businesses make promoting staff mental wellbeing a priority.
“Given how prevalent poor mental health is among staff, employers can no longer afford to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to tackling the causes of stress and poor mental health for their employees.”
‘Presenteeism’ and absence is a particular problem in the public sector, due to mounting pressures felt by workers in the face of Government austerity cuts.
Public sector cuts mean that workers are expected to continue delivering the same level of service with less resources.
According to the survey, the average number of working days lost per employee in the public sector – including sickness absence – has risen from 7.9 days to 8.7 days per year.
However, the level of public sector absence is still lower than pre-recession levels.
Meanwhile, overall levels of absence across all sectors rose slightly from 6.6 days per employee per year in 2014 to 6.9 days in the 2015.
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, said: “This is the fifth year in a row in which thirty per cent or more of employers have reported an increase in employees coming into work when they are ill.
“It’s a real concern that the problem of presenteeism is persisting, as we might have expected it to drop during the economic recovery as people tend to feel more secure in their jobs.
“The problem may well be a hangover from the recession but we need to address the issue of presenteeism head-on.
“The message to businesses is clear: if you want your workforce to work well, you have to take steps to keep them well and this means putting employee health above operational demands.”
Corinne Williams, Head of Human Relations at the healthcare insurance company Simplyhealth, said organisations should be doing more to discourage ‘presenteeism’.
“It’s interesting to see how much of a problem presenteeism still is, but also how little is being done about it.
“It’s key that organisations look at their culture, the behaviours may [sic] create and the impact this may have on stress levels, as well as overall employee health.
“Organisations should actively discourage presenteeism as part of a wider and carefully-considered wellbeing strategy, as well as exploring the root causes of this trend.
“It’s important for employers to have wellbeing benefits and services in place that both encourage employees to look after their health and provide support when they need it.”
North West TUC secretary Lynn Collins told the Morning Star: “The increasing pressure of ‘performance management’ and ‘sickness absence’ systems mean that people are often turning in to work when ill for fear of an adverse mark or scoring in one of these systems.
“Nobody really benefits when people are ill at work, particularly for those workers in front-facing public-serving professions.
She added: “And it’s about time employers worked with unions to make sure there are systems in place that support people when they are ill, and don’t penalise them or place unnecessary pressure on them to attend when not fit.”
Last updated at 03:48 on 12 October 2015 to include a comment from the mental health charity, Mind.