0345 300 6256 To arrange a free, no obligation meeting
Navigation Search
0345 300 6256
To arrange a free, no obligation meeting

Being aware of the presenteeism issue

30 August 2017

Whilst most businesses are now highly conscious of the threat posed by absenteeism, only a minority are paying sufficient attention to “presenteeism” – when employees are unable to perform to their maximum as a result of coming to work when physically or mentally unwell.

With SMEs, in particular, it is common to find that the problem is nowhere on their radar. Yet studies commonly suggests that presenteeism costs around twice as much as absenteeism.

Ironically, employers who pride themselves on having robust absenteeism policies could be unwittingly fuelling presenteeism by making employees feel they must return to work before they are actually ready.

Recent research by Willis Towers Watson shows that 51% of employees think that their workplace suffers from a culture of negative judgement around sickness absence, and 54% feel they are put under pressure to get back to work before they have fully recovered.

Having to struggle through illness and injury can leave people feeling disengaged and unproductive. Yet only 47% of employees in the research believe their employer provides adequate specialist support, care and advice to facilitate their return to work following a long-term absence.

The biggest reason (50%) given by employees for feeling under pressure to return to work is the fear that staying off any longer could have a negative impact on their job prospects.

Employers, however small, who ignore this issue are indulging in a false economy as they are not only seeing productivity blighted by presenteeism but they are also potentially creating a future absenteeism issue by allowing health conditions to deteriorate.

A key starting point for tackling the problem is to review company procedures with a view to creating a sense of trust and two-way communication that ensures employees realise they can take time off when necessary without it affecting their job security.

Providing seminars to raise awareness of sickness absence issues and promoting flexible working practices can also help, as can ensuring that employees are aware of the facilities they already have at their disposal via their employee benefits package. Many of these benefits cost very little and are well within the reach of most SME budgets. 

Occupational health services, or the early intervention and rehabilitation services available on the most basic of income protection schemes, can be invaluable for nipping health problems in the bud – particularly those relating to stress, depression or mental illness.

Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) can also provide valuable telephone-based and face-to-face counselling for a range of stress-related issues. Some even offer debt management advice which can help tackle financial stress – now the most common form of workplace stress.

Additionally, cash plan schemes can do much to help alleviate the type of nagging musculoskeletal pain that can play havoc with employee concentration by helping to fund access to physiotherapy and other complementary therapies.

Employers of all sizes may also wish to consider introducing short-term sick pay schemes which, unlike income protection, can start paying out almost as soon as an employee is off sick.

Because these are a relatively recent addition to the employee benefits arena, awareness of them is still limited, particularly amongst SMEs.

Nevertheless, introducing a short-term sick pay scheme can send out a clear message to employees that they are being invited to take the necessary time off to get better and have no need to worry about rocking the boat if they don’t come to work.

Providing a very basic cash plan with a built-in EAP can cost as little as £1 per employee per week, and providing a limited-term income protection scheme which effectively incorporates a basic pseudo-occupational health service can cost as little as 0.25% of payroll.

Even the smallest and most narrow-minded of employers should be able to work out that such outlays could be repaid many times over by the reductions in presenteeism costs they could achieve.

If you would like more information on how Chase de Vere can help you tackle presenteeism by conducting seminars on sickness issues, communicate the relevant options available on your employee benefits or ensure you have the most appropriate range of benefits then please do not hesitate to contact Chase de Vere on 0345 300 6256 or complete this simple form and we’ll call you.