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Workers are risking their health by turning up for work while ill

Published 14 October 2015

Employees are putting themselves at risk of mental health problems because they are turning up for work while they are sick.

A recent survey shows one in three employers reported an increase in ‘presenteeism’ - staff turning up for work while unwell.

The CIPD Absence Management Survey 2015 quizzed 600 employers and more than half admitted they do not discourage this type of behaviour.

The fact an increasing number of employees are taking the decision to soldier on despite feeling under the weather, appears to be down to job insecurity.

It is thought many are scared of being victimised by managers or losing their jobs. Policies such as not paying employees for the first few days of sick leave and offering a no days off bonus can also be contributory factors.

For many employers the measure of a good employee is how often they are sat at their desk and for how long.

Employers where staff report for work while ill are more likely to be hit by stress-related absence among workers or mental health problems. Public sector organisations badly affected by austerity cuts are more likely to report increases in mental health issues.

Organisations should be doing a lot more to promote health and well-being in the workplace, as it would be beneficial to the welfare of employees and can also benefit the business by boosting productivity.

A sickness absence policy should ensure that any absence is managed in a consistent, supportive and effective way.

Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means that they should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and well-being.

Adhering to this can be a key factor in building trust and reinforcing a commitment to employees, and it can help to improve staff retention and pave the way for greater employee engagement. It can also help in preventing claims for stress related illnesses caused by work, which have risen steadily in recent years.

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