Presenteeism at Axa PPP more problematic than sickness absence, report finds

Four in 10 employees at Axa PPP have reported ‘sickness presence’ in the workplace – that is, they struggle into work ill rather than take the day off, according to new research.

A study by the Work Foundation based on 510 employees at the medical insurance business of Axa UK, published today, found presenteeism when ill prevailed far more than sickness absence, with 45% of staff reporting they had come into work when unwell.

In contrast, just 18% of employees said they took days off work when ill during the same period assessed last October.

Three factors were significantly linked with sickness presence, including personal financial difficulties, work-related stress, and perceived workplace pressure.

Staff with lower levels of perceived workplace pressure, lower work-related stress and fewer personal financial difficulties reported fewer days of sickness presence, the report published today found.

Employees who perceived pressure from managers and colleagues to work when unwell were also more likely to report that their performance was adversely affected as a result.

Katherine Ashby, report co-author, said the findings could be applied across organisations nationwide. Last year, 20% of NHS staff said they struggled into work when they felt unwell, findings from the Boorman Review identified.

And workplace psychologist Cary Cooper previously told Personnel Today presenteeism was rife during the recession, as staff were worried about the consequences of being absent from work.

Ashby urged HR professionals to ensure sickness management policies were well understood by all staff and highlighted the importance of trying to prevent presenteeism.

Five Work Foundation recommendations include:

  • Workplace culture: Scrutinise how absence management policies are understood and applied by managers at all levels of the organisation.

  • Line managers: Prioritise their capability to deal with work-related stress.

  • Ability to adjust work to health problems: Use the new fit note as a constructive opportunity to review how managers and their teams currently work together to help adjust work for employees and accommodate their health problems.

  • Workplace financial support for employees: Offer financial education to manage personal money matters for those who need it.

  • Further monitoring and evaluation: Ongoing monitoring and evaluation is key to assess the level of and progress on improving employee health and wellbeing.


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