Jul 16, 2012

Absenteeism & Presenteeism in 2012

Short term absentees are down. Long term absentees remain high.

The British Safety Council has released an article highlighting presenteeism as a greater problem to productivity than absenteeism. The article sights new statistics from the Labour Force Survey and the manufacturers’ organisation EEF showing short term absenteeism is at an all time low with people choosing to attend work resisting rest days to battle their colds, coughs and flu’s.

Whilst the drop in absenteeism can be sighted as a significant improvement it also demonstrates long term absentees are still a major detractor from UK work place with noticeable contributors being musculoskeletal problems.

With the current economical climate remaining tense and job pressures mounting on employees, it is not a surprise that the majority of ill employees are choosing to stay at work and show eagerness despite a lack in productivity. Regardless of motives, how is this going to impact on stress levels within the work force. Has added pressure created a working environment where presenteeism offers the only achievable solution for the company and a strained coping mechanism for the individual?

It is also a concern that absenteeism through musculoskeletal problems remains as prolific as it has for years. Do employers need reinforced guidance to remedy this loss to industry or are we not doing enough to promote safe behavior and change attitudes.

The following article was released by the British Safety Council 12/07/2012.

The biggest problem workplaces face is not absenteeism but presenteeism. 

Sickness absence has dropped to its lowest since records began, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Figures from the Labour Force Survey, released on 15 May, showed during 2011 employees took 131 million days off work due to illness, an average of 4.5 days per employee. In 1993, 178 million days were lost due to sickness, a fall of 26%. The sickness absence rate, the percentage of usual hours lost from sickness absences, has dropped to 1.8. But the figures came two days after a more focused survey released by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF showed a rise in specifically long-term absence.

The ONS gave the most common reason for sickness in 2011 as minor illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu, but the greatest number of days lost were due to musculoskeletal problems.

Trade unions have claimed the fall in numbers is due in part to the rise of presenteeism – where an employee will attend work despite being too ill to do so. The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Brendan Barber, said: “The biggest problem workplaces face is not absenteeism but presenteeism.

“Employers need to look at their working practices and see whether they can be changed to prevent ill-health.

“[The] figures also show that the biggest causes of long term sickness absence are musculoskeletal disorders and stress. Both of these are often as a result of a person’s work.”

The EEF/Westfield Health 2012 annual sickness absence report, released on 13 May, showed 40% of businesses reported an increase in long-term sickness absence, up 5% from the previous year. The EEF stated this was due to an increase in absence due to stress, anxiety and depression which often result in longer periods off work. The report also found that 55% of companies were concerned about presenteeism.

The EEF’s chief medical adviser, Professor Sayeed Khan, said: “Whilst it is encouraging that the overall days lost due to sickness absence continue to fall, the figures highlight the vast majority of absence is still down to long-term conditions which remain stubbornly high.

“The gains in tackling short-term absence have now been largely exhausted and, if we are to now make serious inroads into tackling long-term conditions we need a renewed approach from government, companies and other bodies.”