Presenteeism costs more than £4,000 per employee

Average UK employee spends almost two weeks a year at work while ill

Colleagues blowing their noses over your desk during flu season is not only annoying, it’s expensive – with new research from Nottingham Business School claiming the average UK employee spends almost two weeks a year at work while ill, costing firms more than £4,000 per person.

In a survey of 300 employees working for a large UK utilities company, staff reported working for an average of 13.09 days while feeling unwell in 2016 – far higher than the reported average annual sickness absence rate of 6.63 days per employee.

“Work can be good for health, but only if it’s well-managed,” research co-author Dr Zara Whysall, senior lecturer in business and management at NBS, says. “Employers need to address presenteeism by encouraging the employee to report any health problems they’re experiencing, then take steps to help them progress back to full productivity rather than taking more time off.”

Struggling into work despite feeling under the weather may be applauded by some, but the study shows that it’s bad for productivity, as some survey respondents said they were functioning at as little as 20 per cent of average workplace capacity during presenteeism. The average employee reported functioning at a capacity of 84 per cent on the days they worked while ill, leading to an annual lost productivity cost of £4,058 per person.