Winner of the Geneva Award 2018

Presenteeism, Its Effects and Costs: A Discussion in a Labour Law Perspective

Published in: International Journal of Comparative Labour Law – vol. 34

Author: Kurt Pärli

 

The economic crisis and resulting restructurings, downsizings, financial worries and fears of dismissal due to absence from work are significantly influencing employees’ decisions on whether to continue working despite ill health. Studies suggest that the economic costs of presenteeism (working while sick) far outweigh the costs of absence from work on the grounds of sickness.

The level of sick pay regulation as well as weak protection against dismissal and a lack of privacy of health data are important drivers for the increase in presenteeism. Activation policies focusing on the sick or long-term sick may give rise to some significant risks for basic human labour rights such as the right to work, just and favourable working conditions, and the fundamental right to social security including paid sick leave and the right to privacy. As a result, a human-rights based approach to human resource management is needed. This is not just in the interest of employees, but is also the better option from a public health perspective.