All Present and Correct

All present and correct? Not necessarily….

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of lost working days due to absence in the UK has fallen to a record low.

It seems the average UK worker took just 4.1 sick days last year, compared to a whopping 7.2 days in 1993.

That must be good news for both employers and employees, right?

Fewer days off means extra productivity for the boss, whilst more time at work would seem to indicate a fitter, healthier workforce.

Well, as ever with these things, there is a hidden story to these statistics.

And that hidden story can be found in the rise of what is known as presenteeism. Put simply, more and more of us are hauling ourselves in to the office when we are not really up to it.

A study by the CIPD reveals that the rate of presenteeism in this country has more than tripled in the past seven years with 86 per cent of workers saying they had witnessed it at their own workplace.

So hopes that extra time at the office mean extra productivity and extra profits might be something of an illusion.

Indeed, the Centre of Mental Health puts the cost of presenteeism from mental health issues at around £15.1 billion a year, nearly double the cost of absenteeism.

There are lots of reasons which might explain the rise in presenteeism.

The economic landscape of the last ten years has been pretty bleak, with a huge rise in fears about job security. Changes in employment laws and the reduction of a union presence in many workplaces might also be a contributory factor, as could be the changing nature of work patterns

So should you, as an employer, be worried?

The simple answer is yes. Greater presenteeism today – particularly among staff with mental health concerns – often leads to greater absenteeism tomorrow, as colleagues work themselves beyond a point their minds and bodies can cope with.

Now is a good time to look at your management culture and the way it is communicated to staff.

Do your workers know your absence procedure and, perhaps more importantly, do they have faith in it? Why not try to gather some feedback from the shop floor to see why staff are clocking in when they are unable to give their best?

If the reasons they give are linked to the way you implement your absence policies or the management culture, think about what changes you can make. Insisting on sending people home to get better is a sign of strength when it helps both the employee and the business to perform better in the long term.

And think about introducing flexible working to help at times of personal trauma, stress or illness. The end result is far more likely to be someone who is committed to your company and prepared to give their best than someone who simply abuses the system.

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