The real risk of presenteeism in our settings

The real risk of presenteeism in our settings

October 20, 2023

We speak often both in person and from stages around the UK on the subject of absenteeism. Every setting that we support has a tale to tell about an employee’s absence.

But what about it’s less well known brother, “presenteeism”.

Presenteeism is where an employee is present at work when they shouldn’t be and often reflects insecurity in some form.

So where is presenteeism coming from?

  1. Fear

Fear of losing their jobs, fear of having to change jobs, all makes people attend work more and more. People fear having to ask for time off from overstretched management. The recruitment crisis is making it more difficult to remain in ratio. Fear of the reaction to requests for time off leads many to attend work when they shouldn’t.

2. Finances

With the risk of losing work is the risk that they will face financial ruin. In many jobs working extra hours used to pay for the nice things, for many now it pays for the heating to go on. Too many people in work experience what is known as ‘in work poverty’.

3. Inability to see a Doctor

It’s a sad fact that its hard to get an appointment to see a GP. Employees are often told they have to ring at 8.30 a.m. and join a queue for same day appointments. If you work in Childcare that might be impossible. So you struggle on.

4. Management

We hear of managers who are contacting staff who are asbent and asking them to return to work. Under employment law, an employee has the right to be unfit for work. There is a consequence to exercising that right. Care has to be taken if management instruct people to return who are not well, then the employer runs the risk of a constructive dismissal claim if the management have been unreasonable.

What is the impact of presenteeism on the Nursery?

Making others ill

At this time of the year one of the common issues we deal with is people turning up for work with an bad cold and giving it to the entire team. We’ve heard of the entire team off due to Norovirus caught in the setting. The Nursery closes and parents are refunded as a service wasn’t provided.

However it can be even worse. People are now passing on COVID-19 to their colleagues as they do not take COVID-19 tests. In October 2023 it remains Government guidance to stay away from other people for 5 days if they are an adult, 3 day if they are a child and in particular stay away from anyone vulnerable if you have COVID-19.

The impact on other from your poor mental health

One of the areas where we see presenteeism is poor mental health. Poor mental health that has a debilitating impact on their ability to undertake day to day activities. We’ve heard from Nursery Owners who are deeply concerned that one of their team comes to work and then cries all day in the office until home time. Another colleague has to leave the room and “take a minute” as she can’t cope with the pressures of the job. All of this can mount up until one day it spills over.

The risk of presenteeism

I am afraid that children have been and will continue to be impacted by presenteeism caused by poor mental health. Every week we deal with a safeguarding matter, often where someone has rough handled or failed to meet a child’s needs. Many of these can be traced back to medicated (or in some cases prescribed yet unmedicated) employees who shouldn’t be in work as they are not fit to work. This is the real risk of presenteeism in your setting.

So what can be done?

Firstly understand your people. What makes them tick? Are they functioning or do they need assistance. What can you do to support your team? What do they need from you at this time in their lives? Can an Employee Assistance Programme provide effective support to the individual? Our Employee Cash Plan gives us access to a GP via a video appointment within 24 hours. Great for reassuring and in some cases emphasising to the employee that they need support. Our EAP gives access to a counsellor 24/7 including Bank Holidays. Neither is expensive. Our Cash Plan is just £11 per employee per month.

If you need any support with any aspect of presenteeism in your Nursery business call us on 01527 909436.

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