Melissa  Kilday
over 3 years ago by Melissa Kilday

Does your business discourage employees to take time off when sick?

phone, hands, man

Over the last year, only 25% of employees who showed up to work sick said their organisation took steps to discourage this according to research made by the CIPD. Does your organisation fall under that small percentage or are you in the 75% of businesses that are happy for workers to ‘power through’ and be present in the workplace while sick?

Sick days can have a real effect on the day to day running of an organisation as well as having a significant financial impact. Last year sick staff cost British businesses £77 Billion in lost productivity and with this staggering figure it isn’t surprising that employers are discouraging their workers to take time off when sick. However, this figure isn’t representative of only sick days taken, but is mainly made up of lack of productivity through ‘presenteeism’ (employees present in the workplace while sick) which amounts to, on average 27.7 days per worker annually compared to only 2.7 sick days taken.

Due to these shocking findings, organisations are now being encouraged to look at their culture in regards to sick days and how they can improve their statistics, firstly looking at why their employees are turning up to work unwell.

There are a number of reasons employees can feel under pressure to be present while sick, most commonly:

  • Employees feel their workload is too large to take unexpected time off with fear of falling behind

  • There is a lack of team work preventing workers feeling their colleagues will help out with any urgent duties

  • Felling they will be disciplined or discriminated against for taking a sick day / days

  • They won’t be believed or accused of skiving

  • Financial deductions to wages without room in their budget

Presenteeism can cause more damage than good as unwell employees are less productive and don’t work to their usual standard. Sickness can spread and in turn affect the team as a whole having a significant impact on the productivity of not just one worker but an entire department. Therefore, adopting a culture of sick day acceptance and support can only help to decrease the number of productive working days that are lost each year.

It is essential to create an environment where employees feel comfortable about staying at home when sick, you can do this by:

  • Offering flexible working – if an employee is sick but worried about falling behind, provide the tools they need to work from home

  • Review your organisations policy on paid sick days

  • Be supportive towards sick workers

  • Support the wider team by taking on a short term temporary worker in the event of an unexpected absence

There are many benefits to taking on temporary workers as they offer immediate cover for sickness leave, holidays and other unexpected absences, taking pressure off the team and filling gaps where you would otherwise be short staffed. Temporary workers can be flexible in terms of the length of an assignment and often offer a stronger skillset due to the variety of assignments they have previously completed.

You might also find it useful to take a look at our blog highlighting the benefits of offering flexible working:

Benefits of offering flexible working -