How to respond when employees are sick at work.
According to reports, presenteeism may be to blame for a recent rash of food-borne illness outbreaks at Chipotle, the popular burrito chain.
This isn’t the first time that presenteeism, defined as the act of attending work while sick, has impacted a workplace, and it most certainly won’t be the last. According to a report from the National Study of the Changing Workforce by the Families and Work Institute, 56 percent of employees in the U.S. reported to work during the previous 12 months despite being ill enough to have stayed home.
What’s The Cause Of Presenteeism?
Michelle Dean, Human Resources Specialist For Alcott HR, said that presenteeism is a common occurrence.
“We have found that presenteeism does occur in many offices and often becomes a hindrance to the entire office,” she said.
While these sick employees often come to work for positive reasons – to show their dedication, to maintain their income, to preserve their vacation days – doing so can have a negative impact on a business, particularly the risk of infecting customers, clients and other employees.
“Some employers offer limited sick leave and generally only for full-time employees,” Dean said. “Part-time hourly employees generally aren’t paid for their time off if they call out sick. Therefore, in order to be paid, employees come to work sick when in essence they should stay home for a day or two until they are well enough to work. For most employers, particularly when employees work in retail and restaurants, this can become not only troublesome, but dangerous, too.”
How Can You Avoid Spreading Presenteeism In Your Office?
When employees do show up sick, it is important to encourage proper hygiene.
Marilyn Angelo, Human Resources Specialist For Alcott HR, cautions that phones and shared work terminals can be breeding grounds for germs. Thus, if a sick employee is unable to stay home, “the best things that [other] employees can do is to continuously wash their hands and try to keep away from the sick folks,” she said.
In addition, developing paid sick policies that are attuned to your workforce is critical. For example, you may want to implement a policy that allows employees to work from home when they aren’t feeling well, or you can consider developing guidelines for when employees should call out sick.
Some PTO Policies Can Contribute To Presenteeism
In recent years, many companies have done away with allotting employees a set number of sick days and instead have opted to offer an inclusive paid-time off bank that combines sick, vacation and personal days. As Dawn Davidson Drantch, our Corporate Counsel, recently told Newsday, this shift has encouraged presenteeism because employees tend to save as much time as possible for vacations.
If you’d like more information about developing a presenteeism policy, contact us to learn how Alcott HR can help provide human resources guidance in times of sickness and health. Give us a call today.