Recruitment and HR

Are your employees sick – or just sick of you?

26 Nov 2019

According to a survey for the BBC, 40% of us are prepared to take a sick day because we want a break from work, even if we’re not actually ill.

The research shows that this workplace deception doesn’t stop there. 30% of those questioned would pretend to have a doctor’s appointment when they were doing something else. And 66% said they would not tell their manager if they knew a colleague was off work but not ill.

The study also revealed that taking a sickie was more common among 16-34 year olds – workers in this age group are twice as likely to fake an illness as those aged over 55.

Data from the Office of National Statistics tells us that the average worker takes roughly four sick days a year. In 2018, the most common reasons for calling into work were common colds, back pain and other musculoskeletal problems, mental health conditions and ‘other’ unspecified problems.

These findings are prompting many employers to look at the reasons why so many workers are happy to fake it or cover for someone else faking it. For employees to feel the need to lie to managers suggests some kind of issue within the workplace – such as having a poor relationship with a manager.

If workers don’t feel comfortable being open with their manager or think they will be judged for having time off for any reason other than illness, the temptation to lie may be too great to resist.

Speaking about the findings, Julian Cox head of employment at iLaw, said: “Tackling sickie culture is important due to the cost, disruption and lack of productivity it creates but if a company is experiencing a significant number of sick days, then they may need to evaluate the work environment to remove the toxicity that leads to ‘sickies’.”

But it’s not just employees faking sickies that are a challenge for businesses; the rising trend of presenteeism is also an issue – and it can often be overlooked. According to a CIPD report, 86% of those questioned said they had observed presenteeism in the workplace over the last 12 months.

Marketing is often seen as a breeding ground for employees not taking their full holiday entitlements. Employees not admitting when things are too much or coming into work despite feeling unwell can negatively impact productivity as much as absenteeism.

Luckily, there are steps employers can take to reduce the levels of absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. Offering flexible working, encouraging staff to take a full lunch break, instilling a culture of open dialogue, and making sure leaders demonstrate a good work-life balance are all important for a happy, healthy, honest workplace.

“At Stopgap we have definitely seen a trend towards employers recognising the need to tackle employee wellbeing and satisfaction,” said Claudine Farrell, Talent Manager at Stopgap.

“It is very rare that we receive a brief for a job which doesn’t offer some level of flexible working, whether that is working from home or flexi-time. And when we do, we heavily advise that they introduce it, because a lack of flexibility for candidates now, is a huge turn-off.”

But employers need to think about more than just flexible working to tackle sickness and presenteeism. Workplace wellbeing is hugely important, from offering proper and genuine support to people suffering from mental health problems to advice on other areas of life that can cause stress, like financial planning. Any employers failing to do that will find they miss out on the best talent on the market.

If you’re an employer looking for advice on your recruitment process and employee benefits, or you simply have a role you would like to brief us on, contact us today.

86%
said they had observed presenteeism in the workplace in the last year.
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