More than four-fifths have witnessed presenteeism at their organisation


More than four-fifths (83%) of employers have observed presenteeism, such as when employees come to work while ill, at their organisation; a further 25% state this has increased over the last year, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Simplyhealth.

Its annual Health and wellbeing at work survey report, which polled 1,078 people professionals, also found that 37% have noted an increase in stress-related absence over the last year, with 62% citing heavy workloads, attributed to poor management, as the top cause. Respondents also defined management style as a contributing factor to stress-related absence; this has increased from 32% to 43% over the last year.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “Rates of presenteeism and leaveism, which are both linked to stress, remain stubbornly high. Employers have a responsibility to tackle these bad habits. They must also realise that staff are not going to perform at their best if they are working when ill or using up holiday to work rather than recharge.”

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents have seen leaveism at their organisation, where employees work during holiday leave. More than half (55%) believe their business has not taken any steps to address this.

Pam Whelan (pictured), director of corporate at Simplyhealth, added: “There are further steps organisations can take to help reduce stress-related absence and encourage a preventative approach. Fostering a culture where employees feel they can seek support when they need it is key, and initiatives such as offering an employee assistance programme and flexible working arrangements can help improve an employee’s work-life balance.”

Half (50%) of managers have undergone training in order to support staff to better manage stress, and 50% of respondents think that managers buy into the importance of employee wellbeing. However, only a third (32%) agree that senior leaders encourage a focus on mental wellbeing through their actions and behaviours, and even among those organisations looking to tackle leavism and presenteeism, only 37% say that managers have been trained to spot the signs.

Suff said: “Managers should be helping to alleviate stress among their staff, not contributing to it. But too many managers are being set up to fail because they haven’t received adequate training, despite them often being the first person employees will turn to when they have a problem.

“It’s vital that businesses recognise the importance of wellbeing initiatives and training for line managers. Senior leaders should work with their HR experts to ensure there is sufficient training and an overall culture of wellbeing in their workplaces.

Whelan continued: “People are an organisation’s greatest asset and so it is crucial that senior leaders recognise the importance of investing in their employees.

“Line managers play a front line role and are often best placed to support with health and wellbeing, but this year’s report shows there is more work to be done to better support them with training and guidance.”