Health and Safety, Policies and Procedures

Presenteeism in the Workplace

Sickness Presenteeism

Presenteeism is the act of going to work in hours that are not required.

Also, it is individuals being present when they are experiencing health issues that indicate they should be absent from work.

Public Health Statistics

According to Public Health England in its 9th January 2020 report:

“In week 01, the rate of influenza-like illness (ILI) continued to be Above baseline threshold levels. The overall weekly ILI GP consultation rate was 16.6 per 100,000 registered population in participating GP practices for England, an increase from 12.9 per 100,000 in the previous week.”

NHS statistics also show that the winter vomiting bug is a quarter higher than in 2019.

Also, 10 times more people have been admitted to the hospital than in the 2018 -2019 period.

Presenteeism – Working Environments

When you are in an enclosed workspace with other staff who have anything from the common cold to flu-like symptoms it can be a frustrating experience.

No one wants to catch a cold or something worse and then pass it on to their family. This is especially true when it can be helped by carriers not being present at the workplace.

Presenteeism – Absence Rates

Current data available from the Office of National Statistics illustrate the sickness absence rates per gender and in total.

They also include the days lost per worker are decreasing overall.

Younger workers ages 18 – 25 are more likely to show up to work than the order ranges.

These statistics, along with the increasing number of viruses present year on year can be interpreted as meaning that more staff are present at work when they should be absent.

There are variables to consider here, such as increased home working.

However, current indicative statistics show that full-time home working is still low, with only 13.7% of staff having the option the take some time home working.

How does presenteeism affect your business?

The costs can be measured in several ways:

  • Lower quality and quantity performance. Sick staff are more likely to have less concentration and be less productive.
  • Subsequent infection. Passing this on to other members of staff can produce a “hospital ward” epidemic effect whereby the carrier infects more of your staff and productivity becomes even lower. In a 2014 survey by Canada Life Insurance, over 80% of respondents stated that they had become ill as a result of an infection contracted in the workplace.
  • Along with decreased performance and infections – sick employees can also prove distracting to other members of staff.
  • Occupational injuries. A 2012 study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed that workers with access to paid sick leave were 28% less likely overall to suffer nonfatal injuries than workers without access to paid sick leave.

Why do people come to work when they are sick?

Research has found that individuals will attend work when sick because:

  • They are in fear of losing their positions, this is especially common in temporary or other loosely contracted work.
  • There is no one else to do the work. Employees feel that unless they are present, work will not get completed and there may be subsequent negative outcomes from their management.
  • The indivduals cannot afford to take time off. Especially in positions where there are no sick pay provisions.
  • They feel their career prospects may be damaged – especially if they are prone to multiple sicknesses in the year.
  • The indivduals are dedicated to their job and may have workaholic tendencies.
  • They have an unhappy home life or are not able to be home at certain times.

How can you help?

A Presenteeism Policy should be created and be part of the Staff Handbook outlining clearly your sickness policy and procedures.

Also, framing it positively both business continuity and providing staff members options for sickness.

Companies can also implement wellness programs for their employees aimed at increasing health and productivity. 

If you would like any further information on Human Resources policies please contact us.


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Joanne: 07764 258 001
Shaun:   07908 688 170