The increase in presenteeism and leaveism is a worrying trend for today’s SMEs, warns employee benefit comparison experts

As the number of workers in the private sector taking sickness days reaches a record low since 1993*, Mike Preston, business development director for employee benefit comparison service ProtectMyPeople, warns SME owners that presenteeism and leaveism are just as bad for the wellbeing of their workforce.


Recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the proportion of working hours lost due to sickness in the private sector was 1.7% in 2017, with those working in the public sector taking off 2.6% of their working hours due to sickness.


But the ONS says that the increase in presenteeism, where people go to work despite being ill, could be one of the reasons for the record low. In fact, research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD)** found that 86% of companies it surveyed had seen presenteeism in the past year.


According to this research, leaveism is also an increasing issue, where people are working remotely when they should be on leave, as it found that more than two thirds of businesses had noticed its employees doing so in the last 12 months.


Mike said: “It is very encouraging to see the sickness absence figures drop, but what is worrying is that it seems this is being replaced by the new phenomenon of presenteeism and leaveism.


“As the director of a small business myself, I am well aware that our staff is the businesses’ best asset, therefore it’s increasingly important for us to look after the health and wellbeing of our employees and ensure that they aren’t coming into work when they should be off and that they aren’t answering emails whilst on leave.”


Mike added: “ProtectMyPeople believes that putting a health and wellbeing policy in place, setting out what is expected of people if they are feeling ill or feel that they have to work whilst on leave, will help combat these issues head on.


“Adding employee benefits, such as flexible working and death-in-service, are also tools that can be easily implemented by businesses to potentially give your staff that ‘looked after’ feeling – improving loyalty and your reputation as an employer.


“It is in your interest to look after your employees. Small changes to benefit packages may give peace of mind to your staff, add to productivity and instil a general good feeling in your business.”