The good news is that the average level of employee absence has fallen compared with last year from 7.7 days to 6.8 per employee per year, according to this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey.
The bad news is that the fall in absence levels coincides with almost a third of employers reporting an increase in the number of people going into work ill.
The threat of redundancies and concerns over job security are shown to contribute to such ‘presenteeism’, with organisations that are expecting to make redundancies in the next six months more likely to report an increase in employees going into work when unwell, than employers that are not expecting to cut jobs.
Stress-related absence also appears to be on the increase, with two-fifths of employers (40%) reporting a rise over the past year and only one in ten (10%) reporting that the problem had decreased.
The truth is that stress continues to feature as the most common cause of long-term absence, for the second year running.
Interestingly, the level of reported mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, among employees is also on the increase. More than twice the number of employers reported an increase in mental health problems in 2012 than did in 2009 (2012: 44%; 2011: 39%; 2010: 38%; 2009: 21%).
According to the survey, organisations who have noted an increase in presenteeism over the past year are more likely to report an increase in stress-related absence over the same period (52% compared with 38% of those who did not report an increase in people coming in to work ill).
Similarly, they are more likely to report an increase in mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression (62% compared with 35% of those who did not report an increase in people coming into work ill).
This suggested link between presenteeism and both stress and mental health problems underlines the need for organisations to take pre-emptive action to address employees’ concerns in times of challenge, uncertainty and change.
Staff may be coming into work ill increasing risk of passing illnesses to colleagues. Also ill employees are less productive, less effective and more likely to make costly mistakes and will take longer to recover from their illness.
The reality is that continuing economic uncertainty and fears of job security does take a toll on employees, suggesting that presenteeism as actually a sign of anxiety. This can in turn, impact morale and commitment and may cause or exacerbate stress or mental health problems.
Employers need to begin to understand the negative impact of presenteeism, offering a more proactive approach to managing employee wellbeing and managing absence. This could include training managers how to manage their stress and their staff more effectively and early access to occupational health services.
Call us on 0161 865 6488 today and see how we can help you make a positive difference to your work force.