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Working When Sick – A Culture Of Presenteeism

Published on: 2nd November 2016

Working when sick is a major issue facing employees, contractors and freelancers in the UK.

The work environment and expectations to prove our value seems to naturally create a culture of presenteeism. While working when sick may seem admirable it is actually very bad for business.

What Is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism does not just apply to illness. It literally means the act of staying at your place of work for more hours than required. It’s actually a reaction to feeling insecure about one’s job and sickness related presenteeism can affect contractors and traditional employees alike.

Why Is Working When Sick Bad For Business?

Working when sick means the quality of your work will not be as good, you will most likely make your illness last longer and you severely risk spreading your illness.

When unwell employees come into the office germs can spread rapidly and soon the business could be faced with multiple workers off sick instead of one. Many employees trying to work when sick will mean your business produces poorer quality work on mass for a longer period of time and your ill employees will keep the infection looping around the office staff longer.

Although many employers feel they should subtly pressure staff to work hard and take as little time off as possible, they are in fact creating an environment where the business as a whole performs badly as many workers are unfit to do their duties. On top of this the less rest you get the more run down you are and therefore far more likely to get ill again soon.

How Working When Sick Affects Contractors

Presenteeism also affects contractors. Since contractors do not have the same traditional working hours as other employees, there is a large pressure to be able to perform well and complete a project within a time scale. This means contractors will often force themselves to work when unwell. Being unwell also means potentially missing out on contracts which will be then given to other contractors.

According to the research recently carried out by the job search site CV library 67.5 % of employees go to work when they are unwell and 66.4% of the average UK employees will only take between one and two sick days a year.

The report revealed that guilt and pressure are the major causes of this behaviour with 68.3% revealing feelings of guilt for taking sick days.

These attitudes are not just in the employees’ and contractors’ minds as 54.6% of respondents claimed that their employer does not send them home when they are ill at work. 34% said that their managers actively put pressure on them to return to work before they were fully well and 44.7% had employers question the validity of their illness.

One of the most revealing statistics in the report that truly demonstrates the attitudes of business owners to staff sickness is that only half of UK companies offer sick pay. This means that staff risk financial repercussions by taking needed time off. Contractors have project based work so taking sick leave during times of high demand could have serious impacts.

In the current culture, that encourages working when sick, working with an umbrella company can offer advantages for contractors who are worried about this issue.

Umbrella Companies Sick Pay

Umbrella companies give additional security for contractors. By becoming an umbrella employee, you will gain certain benefits and protections such as contractors sick pay. Contractors should not feel pressure to work when unwell and can be reassured that Exchequer Solutions will protect their interests. Find out more about umbrella employee benefits here.