54% feel under pressure to return to work early following an illness or injury

Mike Blake

More than half (54%) of respondents feel under pressure to return to work before they have fully recovered from an illness or injury, according to research by Willis Towers Watson.

Its survey of 1,123 UK employees aged between 18 and 64 years old also found that 47% of respondents believe their employer provides adequate specialist support, care, and advice to help staff return to work following a period of long-term absence.

The research also found:

  • 50% of respondents cite fear of a negative impact on their job prospects as the reason why they feel under pressure to return to work following an illness or injury, 46% worry about letting colleagues down, and 35% are concerned about workload and deadlines.
  • 51% of respondents feel their workplace is affected by a culture of negative judgement around sickness absence.
  • 33% of respondents who have taken more than four weeks of continuous absence within the last five years claim they did not receive regular communication or support from their employer while off work.

Mike Blake (pictured), director at Willis Towers Watson Health and Benefits, said: “Presenteeism can have a significant impact on performance and employers may leave themselves exposed to greater long-term problems if they do not make adequate provision for illness and injury when it first occurs.

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“Businesses are faced with a fine balancing act. They must do their best to tread the line between managing staff back to work as quickly and efficiently as possible while also ensuring they do not work through health conditions. There is also a clear employee engagement issue here; under the umbrella of a more positive sickness culture, businesses should work to educate employees on appropriate procedures for handling sickness, establish strong communication in cases of absence, and ensure staff are aware of the treatment options available to them.

“Good communication with employees is important if employers are to better understand prevailing health issues, provide appropriate support, and make workplace adjustments where necessary. This kind of open dialogue is key to establishing a positive culture around absence.”