Better line management has contributed to a drop in employee sickness levels, according to the latest annual Absence Management Survey by CIPD and Simplyhealth.
Employee absence figures fell from 7.6 days to 6.6 days per employee over the course of 2014, which the CIPD linked to a 22% rise in organizations actively developing line manager capability. However, they also had to acknowledge that these findings may be distorted by a rise in presenteeism, and reported that a third of employers believe that their workforce have come back into work whilst still feeling sick.
These figures fall well short of workers’ own estimates however, with over nine in ten employees (93%) stating that they return to work before they are completely fit, according to a study by Canada Life Group Insurance.
The survey goes on to report that nearly one in ten employees would only take a day off if they were hospitalised or had no other choice. With 72% of employees believing that health and well-being is not a priority in their workplace, it is unsurprising that this attitude is becoming more common amongst employees.
The CIPD found that minor illnesses such as coughs or colds remained the most prevalent cause of sickness absence, although 43% of organizations also recorded a rise in reported mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.
Whilst employers are starting to realise that there is a business case for tackling mental illness in the workplace, employees themselves are seemingly less willing to do so. The Canada Life Group Insurance survey found that 23% of employees would take time off for a minor illness such as a headache or a migraine, whilst only 21% would call in sick if suffering from a stress-related illness.
Given the knock-on effect of a sick workforce, it is vital for employers to ensure that they have a health and well-being policy in place, and that the correct values are being communicated throughout the business.
Paul Avis, marketing director for Canada Life Group, commented: “The persistence of presenteeism in the UK workforce is a troubling sign that employers have failed to take active steps to promote health and well-being in their organisation.
“Employers must have a clear sickness absence system in place, that emphasises employees will not be penalised for taking time off if they are genuinely ill.”