THE total cost to the British economy of staff turning up for work despite being ill could be as high as £26bn a year, a major business event was told.
An event hosted by the Collaborative Professionals Network heard that “presenteeism” - a culture in which people are expected to work when they are unwell - was making the UK economy less competitive and causing misery for many workers.
Ian Garner, an experienced businessman who acts as an ambassador at The Institute of Directors (IoD), quoted analysis from professional services firm Deloitte which found that the total annual cost of presenteeism was estimated at between £17bn to £26bn a year. The total annual cost of staff absences was estimated at £8bn a year.
Mr Garner told The Yorkshire Post: “That people working in an unfit state costs more money than absence is a wake up call for any company which thinks a low rate of staff absence means that mental ill health is not an issue.”
The breakfast seminar - “Being kind is good for business” - was held at the Leeds office of the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson with the aim of encouraging more employers to treat their staff with compassion.
Another of the panellists, Dr. Richard Smith, the managing director, of the Surfachem Group, told the audience that they should treat their staff in the same way that they would expect to be treated,.
He added: “At every new employee’s induction meeting with me, I tell them why it is important to talk to ‘the business’ whenever they have a personal issue that may develop in the future, with the caveat that if we know about it we can help.”
Mr Smith added: “We give employees time off to care for sick children, and line managers are compassionate and considerate. We also support employees who are sick themselves or have mental health issues by helping with phased returns to work, flexible or reduced hours if needed and working from home flexibility.
“This kindness is good business sense as people will either struggle with these issues and make themselves more ill, in which case they cannot work at all, or they will perform poorly, to the detriment of the business.”
The panel included Karl Pemberton, the managing director of Active Chartered Financial Planners, who said that treating your staff with fairness and compassion is a great way of bringing a team together.
He added: “Being metaphorically able to put your arm around your team has united us. It’s brought us all together. “
He said this togetherness might have played a role in boosting the firm’s financial results because it posted a record performance in 2017 and 2018.
Fiona Graham, a managing associate at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, said that being polite helped to boost morale.
She said afterwards: “If you get the little things right it quickly escalates because it has a ripple effect.
“It goes back to making people feel that they are in a place of psychological safety at work.
“If you see they are not, and you help them to get into that place of psychological safety, they are much more confident in the advice they are giving and they believe in themselves more.
Ms Graham added: “That has a huge benefit as they grow as a lawyer.”
The Collaborative Professionals Network has been established to shout about the large numbers of professional services firms that have established a base in Yorkshire.
It also aims to provide a forum for debate about issues facing the regional economy, such as the importance of protecting employees’ mental health.
The latest event was chaired by Greg Wright, the deputy business editor of The Yorkshire Post.
It also featured speeches from Bill Barton, the director of Barton Legal Limited and Karen Eckstein of Womble Bond Dickinson.
For more information visit: www.collaborativeprofessionalsnetwork.co.uk