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Presenteeism persistent in the UK

Presenteeism is a persisting problem in the UK workforce, according to research from Canada Life Group

Almost all (90%) employees said they come into work when feeling unwell, virtually unchanged from the 89% who said this last year.

The survey found presenteeism is most commonly driven by high workloads, with more than a quarter (28%) feeling their workload is too great to call in sick. Financial concerns (21%) and feeling guilty for taking time off (17%) were also common factors.

Employees said they feared they would be thought of as lazy (16%), weak (14%), or inconsiderate (14%) if they took time off for illness. Just 22% of respondents thought this decision would be viewed as sensible.

When it comes to the illnesses people were willing to come into work with, more than half (54%) said they would still come in if they had the flu. More than two in five (42%) would come into work if they had a stomach virus, despite having symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea. Almost a quarter (23%) would only call in sick if they were hospitalised or had no other choice.

Paul Avis, marketing director of Canada Life Group, said it is the responsibility of employers to reduce presenteeism. “With financial pressures and excessive workloads cited as the main causes it is clear employers need to do more to reassure their staff that health and wellbeing is a top priority,” he said.

More than one in 10 (13%) workers said their organisation is dismissive of mental health problems. Four in five (80%) stated they would not take time off for a stress-related illness.

“It is concerning that stress and mental health issues remain so overlooked, particularly as our research shows this type of illness is more common among employees than you might expect. As with physical illness, failing to tackle mental health problems can be hugely damaging not only to the individual but also to the wider business,” he added.