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21 May 2018

Tackling the rise in presenteeism

Since April 2009, UK employees have been legally entitled to 28 days paid holiday per year, including bank holidays. Obviously, employers build the cost of these days into their productivity calculations and most employers will recognise the value of time off to refresh and reinvigorate jaded workers. By way of comparison, Austria has the most number of paid days off – 38, and even the hard-working Germans get one more day than us. Sceptics might say that even the timing of the Royal Wedding – Saturday 19 May was to avoid an extra holiday for the masses.


However, businesses may not realise that around the same number of days per year are lost through “presenteeism”, which rose to an average of 27.7 days per employee during 2017. This figure is contained in the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, which defines Presenteeism as, “being present at work but being limited in some aspects of job performance by a health problem and thus experiencing decreased productivity and below-normal work quality. This is different to absence, which is generally defined as not showing up for work”.

An increasing problem

The research generated as part of Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey shows that UK employees lose 30.4 days of productive time each year due to sickness absence and underperformance as a result of ill-health; that’s six weeks a year, slightly more that statutory holiday entitlement.

It’s estimated that the cost of ill-health related absence and presenteeism is £77.5bn a year for the UK economy, up £4.5bn on 2016.

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey is a study of almost 32,000 workers and 170 organisations, developed by VitalityHealth and delivered in partnership with the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe, Mercer and the Financial Times.

Now in its fourth year, the study shows that absence has fallen from 3.3 days in 2016 to 2.7 days in 2017, but production lost to presenteeism has risen from 24.2 days to 27.7 days – perhaps a reflection of continued economic uncertainty and job insecurity, with employees reluctant to take time off even if they are unwell.

How to tackle presenteeism

“Lost productivity due to presenteeism is a hidden cost to many businesses; increasing levels of presenteeism should be a cause for concern”, commented Ed Watling, head of healthcare benefits at Mattioli Woods.

“In our experience, presenteeism isn’t only caused by ill-health but also by personal concerns – such as financial worries, which impact on an individual’s ability to focus on the job at hand and be fully productive. Business leaders would be well advised to investigate strategies designed to improve employee wellbeing, since this will not only improve employee engagement but should also reduce the impact of presenteeism,” he said.

This article is provided by Mattioli Woods.

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