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Job insecurity drives the sick into work

The number of days lost to sickness is down on last year and has been falling historically. Although much of this overall downwards trend can be put down to better absence management, recent research suggests that dips in absence often coincide with times of economic hardship.

This does not mean that fewer people are falling ill - but that fewer people can afford to be away for illness. Instead, they come to work ill, a practice known as 'presenteeism'.

With more than half of organisations looking at employee absence records as part of redundancy selection criteria, it's hardly surprising that workers will do what they can to get out of their sickbeds and drag themselves to the office.

Recent research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) picked out job insecurity as the main driver of presenteeism. More than a third of organisations that were planning to make redundancies in the next six months witnessed an increase in sick employees coming to work compared with around a quarter for those not expecting to make cuts.

In another report, employees in straitened financial circumstances were found to have a markedly increased number of 'sickness presence' days than those without money worries. In hard times, employers are also more anxious to improve productivity and meet performance targets. The report found that 40 per cent of employees felt under pressure from managers and colleagues to come to work when under the weather.

But doing so is often a false economy. People work far less productively when ill and are more likely to make oversights or expensive mistakes. They take longer to get well at work than at home. Then there's the obvious risk of passing illness on to colleagues, exacerbating the problem.

Acas can help organisations address absence issues from both angles, offering detailed advice on Health and the workplace as well as practical training courses in Absence management. Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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