Absence in the public sector at 7.9 per employee is the lowest for ten years. But this may not be the result of better absence management.
Absence levels in the public and private sectors are falling. But the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development believes that the fall coincides with almost a third of employers reporting an increase in the number of people going into work ill. The threat of redundancies and concerns over job security are shown to contribute to such ‘presenteeism’, with organisations that are expecting to make redundancies in the next six months more likely to report an increase in employees going into work when unwell, than employers that are not expecting to cut jobs.
Stress-related absence also appears to be on the increase, with two-fifths of employers reporting a rise over the past year and only one in ten reporting that the problem had decreased. Stress continues to feature as the most common cause of long-term absence, for the second year running. The level of reported mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, among employees is also on the increase. More than twice the number of employers reported an increase in mental health problems in 2012 than did in 2009 (2012: 44%; 2011: 39%; 2010: 38%; 2009: 21%).
According to the CIPD survey, organisations who have noted an increase in presenteeism over the past year are more likely to report an increase in stress-related absence over the same period (52% compared with 38% of those who did not report an increase in people coming in to work ill). Similarly, they are more likely to report an increase in mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression (62% compared with 35% of those who did not report an increase in people coming into work ill). The suggested link between presenteeism and both stress and mental health problems underlines the need for organisations to take pre-emptive action to address employees’ concerns in times of challenge, uncertainty and change.