Employers not doing enough to combat presenteeism, says CIPD

The CIPD has urged employers to address high levels of presenteeism as it threatens to worsen the UK's ‘always on’ work culture.

According to its Health and Wellbeing at Work report, employers need to do more to address unhealthy working habits, as more than three quarters (77%) of employees have been unwell when working from home in the past year.

It urged employers to monitor if employees are using their holiday allowance to work, as that has also become more widespread. Seven in ten (70%) employers said they have seen staff work outside of contracted hours, use annual leave or work when ill.

Despite acknowledging unhealthy work behaviour, the CIPD said there has been no change in the proportion of organisations taking steps to address it.

Just under a third (32%) of those that said they have observed presenteeism among employees have taken steps to discourage it over the last 12 months. Over half (58%) haven’t done anything and 10% don’t know if they have or not.

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser, employment relations at the CIPD, told HR magazine if employees continue to work when ill or during their holiday time, employers risk promoting an ‘always on’ culture.

She said: “HR teams have an important role to play in preventing an always on culture, by raising awareness of the potential health risks of employees not switching off from work and not taking time off when unwell.

“They need to encourage people to take regular short breaks during the day and provide guidance on how to have a healthy routine that includes clear boundaries between their work and home lives.”

Suff added line managers need training and guidance so they're aware of how to spot signs of presenteeism.

“They should act as role models themselves by taking annual leave appropriately, ensuring workloads and deadlines are realistic, and not emailing their teams outside of work hours,” she said.

Angela Sherwood, chief people officer at Simplyhealth, said as the health landscape continues to evolve wellbeing strategies need to adapt to provide the holistic, relevant healthcare people need and deserve.

She said: “Embracing a preventive health model reaps rewards in building a resilient, productive workforce.

“Employers are well-placed to make a big difference here by driving positive behaviours such as regular health checks, taking breaks, nutritional advice and increased physical activity.”

Sherwood recommended employers use initiatives like employee assistance programmes (EAPs), mental health first aid programmes and resilience workshops to provide robust, well-rounded support to line managers.

“Line managers will then in turn be better equipped to support their teams with their health and wellbeing,” she said.

The CIPD and Simplyhealth surveyed 668 people professionals in reference to 2.7 million employees between November and December 2020.

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