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Presenteeism: A risk to
employee health

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Presenteeism: A risk to employee health

Published: 16th March 2020
Area: Corporate & Commercial
Author(s): Helen Hughes ,

The number of coronavirus cases has started to snowball in the UK, testing businesses and their management practices to the extreme. It’s vital to change the way businesses operate to prevent the spread of the virus, but it is difficult to alter ingrained workplace behaviours.

One of the most dangerous of these is ‘presenteeism’.

What is presenteeism?

Although not a new phenomenon, presenteeism has become more noticeable in recent years. It is linked with the ‘always-on’ nature of the digital working environment, making employees feel that they have to be available 24/7 to prove their dedication.

Why is it so dangerous?

Whether due to fears over employer perception or performance targets, presenteeism could lead to employees coming into work despite being ill. Not only can it exacerbate the spread of germs on a basic level, but presenteeism has also the potential to wipe out entire teams, causing long-term issues.

How can employers stop presenteeism?

The issue has already become more widely recognised for its negative impacts on health, both mentally and physically. As a result, employers should use the coronavirus risk as a reason to rid this out-of-date mindset once and for all.

It all centres around communication between employees, line managers and decision makers. Carrying out a regular review of workplace policies can ensure employees are supported when they are unwell, discouraging presenteeism.

Reinforcing the message that employees will not be punished for staying off work is also vital. Highlighting that by doing so they will be protecting their colleagues is an effective way of ensuring they aren’t tempted to come into work. It is also essential that employees know the exact procedure that they need to follow should they fall ill.

Although not suitable for all job roles, employers should consider introducing alternative ways of working, such as remote working. This is another way to control the spread of COVID-19 in a less disruptive way.

Encouraging an open-door policy and treating employees with empathy can improve both employee happiness and business reputation. Plus, having a clear absence policy and a flexible management style can help lessen the spread of coronavirus, as well as presenteeism.

For more advice surrounding coronavirus and how it can impact on your business, visit our coronavirus hub.

For advice or guidance on any other legal issue, a member of our team can help – please click here to discuss.

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