Presenteeism is when a worker attends work when they should not due to illness. Frequently ill workers attend the office or the factory because they feel that they are indispensable. This may be the case but they can then present health risks to others by communicating their flu or other disease to their colleagues. However, the worker is also impaired and may undertake work tasks or make decisions that put themselves at risk, a clear breach of their OHS obligations.
Presenteeism is an obvious overlap between OHS and Human Resources. Sick leave has an important role to play in managing a safe and healthy work environment.
A 28 July 2008 article on NPR reports on a poll about presenteeism. The US context is slightly different from Europe and Australia because paid sick leave is not a workplace entitlement although many workplaces provide health insurance.
I don’t agree with Marc Burgat, vice president of government relations for the California Chamber of Commerce who argues against the imposition of sick leave entitlements on employers.
Good managers have structured their workforces or production deadlines to accommodate levels of absence due to illness. Health absences should be an element considered in a risk management plan. Good employers can cope with sick workers and foster good relationship (a good workplace culture) by accommodating unavoidable human foibles.