When ill employees are coming into work and spreading their illnesses to their colleagues, how can you combat presenteeism in the workplace?
Workplace ‘presenteeism’ continues to be an issue for employers and at this time of year, coughs and colds are more frequent than usual. Although employers may theoretically be pleased that their employees are choosing to attend work instead of staying at home due to sickness, its negative effects are now becoming increasingly clear.
Rather than being thankful for the employee’s attendance, it pays for employers to be aware of presenteeism and its detrimental impact. For example, an individual is likely to display reduced productivity if they are not feeling 100% and continued presenteeism will only exacerbate this situation. In addition, having individuals attend work whilst unwell increases the risk of germ spread to other staff members, who could themselves become ill and end up needing to take sick leave. This is common in the winter months and during flu season, particularly where employees work within close proximity to one another or share kitchen facilities.
Realising the true impact of presenteeism is only the first step; employers should then take active steps to reduce it. This may not be easy because it may involve a wholesale change in mindset of the business; businesses rarely encourage individuals to be absent.
Employees’ own attitudes often play a key role too. A worry that their employer will not believe they are genuinely ill may increase instances of presenteeism. Working hard to promote an open and honest culture, conducting ‘return to work’ interviews in a correct manner, and ensuring support to employees who are sick may help to break down employee perceptions. For example, emphasising to the employee that the purpose of a return to work interview is to check that the employee is ready to come back to work, and to discuss whether any temporary support can assist the employee on their return, rather than a meeting akin to a disciplinary hearing will demonstrate to the employee that the process is not to be feared.
Employees may also be inclined to go into work whilst ill because they feel they have too much work to do. Employers should be conscious of employee workloads, ensuring tasks are evenly allocated. It is wise to have pre-determined contingency plans in place for work to be picked up or shared if an individual is absent, to allow them sufficient time off to recover.
The battle to tackle presenteeism may require a holistic approach, but those who are committed to doing so are likely to be rewarded with a happier and healthier workforce. 
 Reproduced from Croner Taxwise