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But what about the cost of those who do turn in despite being unwell? Think, say, of Hillary Clinton’s recent decision to grit her teeth and continue election campaigning, despite having been diagnosed with pneumonia. For many that was seen as a costly mistake, affecting her credibility and resulting in her in any case having to take time out.


Presenteeism: a growing phenomenon

Known as ‘presenteeism’ this is seen as a growing problem for UK business. In its 2015 Absence Management survey the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) found that 31% of organisations reported an increase in the number of people coming to work when ill.


It’s also a costly phenomenon. According to the Work Foundation presenteeism may cost between two to seven times as much as the estimated £14 billion annual bill for sickness absence. Think about that; that’s a cost to the UK of between £28-£98 billion every year!


Those staggering losses are attributed to lower productivity and performance. The CIPD survey notes that those firms reporting increased presenteeism were twice as likely to have also seen rises in absence through stress and mental health issues. The Social Market Foundation says some 40% of workers experience some form of stress that could impact their productivity and 33% have performed their work duties less carefully due to mental health issues.


Tackling presenteeism in the workplace

There is no simple solution, no silver bullet that will eliminate presenteeism. Business owners and managers should look at the issue in the round, starting with the corporate culture. A survey of 1,300 workers by online job site CV Library, found that 34% of managers pressure them to return to work early from sickness and 68% experience guilt when they take time off due to illness.


Whilst no manager wants staff to “wag it” through a lackadaisical sickness policy, they equally need take into account the significant cost of presenteeism and how corporate culture might promote it. Employees should feel supported, not pressured, and encouraged to look after their health.


This is where company medical insurance can help, both in enabling a speedier recovery from sickness and even helping prevent or minimise its impact in the first place.


How might private health insurance reduce presenteeism?

Companies that offer private health insurance as part of a salary package can give their staff access to prompt diagnosis and treatment for a range of ailments. These include those that according to the CIPD top the list when it comes to causes of sickness absence, such as musculoskeletal injuries, back pain stress and mental health concerns.


Many policies and employee assistance programmes also provide around-the-clock access to expert advice which can help employees better self-manage their health and seek appropriate and timely medical intervention to prevent an issue escalating.


Helping your employees stay healthy in the first instance

But, as the old adage wisely states, prevention is better than cure. Many company medical insurance schemes incorporate workplace wellness programmes. These could offer not just simple generic health a lifestyle advice, but personalised support. A number of policies also offer discounts on a variety of health screening and assessment services which can help employees to identify if they have or are at risk of developing a condition.


They can also help you nudge employees towards adopting healthier lifestyles through rewards and incentives. Many offer discounts on gym memberships and the new generation of wearable fitness tracking devices.


The beauty of providing access to health and wellbeing programmes – and indeed company health insurance per se – is not only that they support and encourage your employees to live more healthy and productive lives. They can also help you as an organisation demonstrate a duty of care, to show that the physical and mental wellbeing of those you employ matters to you.

If you’d like to discuss how company medical insurance could help your organisation minimise presenteeism and sickness absence, why not give our corporate team a call on 01254 504910?