Complex Made Simple

Sick leave work absenteeism may be excused but is presenteeism worse?

Anyone who ever worked has occasionally taken a sick day or two when he/she was in perfect health and that has given sick leave a bad reputation.

In 2017, UAE national news agency WAM reported gone are the days when employees can treat sick leave simply as extra paid holidays by their employer. Predated sick leave of three consecutive days will no longer be allowed.

Now, if you are a sick leave abuser and your employer is ‘sick of it’ and ready to fire you, then note that employees cannot be dismissed or served with a notice of dismissal while on annual or sick leave, according to the employment & labour law in the UAE.

Stay home, “sick”, and you’ll never be fired!

I’m sick

UAE Employees are entitled to a sick leave of not more than 90 days per year subject to conditions stipulated in the law.

They will receive full pay for the first 15 days, half pay for the next 30 days and no pay for the rest 45 days.

But a recent LinkedIn article asked: Are sick days a thing of the past? 

“Remote work has extended the office into the home, formerly the hard and fast refuge of employees taking sick days. Now, many feel compelled to do some work, answer e-mail and even jump on conference call when feeling bad.

“Even if you take a sick day, you’re still emailing in the morning, checking in later in the day,” Kit Warchol, the head of content marketing for Skillcrush, an online coding school, told the New York Times. “It’s become more of a norm to write to your colleagues and tell them you’re working from home.”

At the same time, the definition of a sick day has been extended to cover other needs, like having to care for a family member in a pinch. In view of this, and out of respect for employee privacy, some companies are now calling the days off “personal emergency days.”

As a result, “no longer does the employee have to ‘sell’ their sickness to the boss with a list of symptoms,” writes The New York Times.

How do employees feel about this?

Feeling good..maybe

In perspectives curated by LinkedIn Editors, some employees expressed their views with feeling good about the extra needed day off and others not so sure.

Matan Presberg, Software Application Engineer at Workday, said “I'd like to add a voice of support for the death of the sick day. I think being able to work from home allows workers to manage their own time.”

“Absolutely there are dangers with this, and it is easy for it to turn into extra pressure to do work regardless of your health. It places larger pressure on the culture at work to make it not only ok, but encouraged for people to take time off, and not work for a day when they need to, but we all have to audit how we're interacting with the culture, making sure we're encouraging people around us to leverage the benefits of this, and not falling into the negative traps.”

Susan Koch, of SPHR, said younger employees are asking that sick days return. “Is the stress of the ‘always on’ 24/7 workplace wearing people down?” she asked.  

Sital Patel, Content Strategist, said “It’s become more of a norm to write to your colleagues and tell them you’re working from home.”

Michael McCunney Vice President, Marketing – We’re hiring Marketing ROCK STARS! said “Sick days are to take care of yourself, keep others from getting ill and still contribute.”

Ross Bynum Frac Sand Senior Sourcing Lead – Allocations Manager said “Sick days should definitely be a thing of the past if your job is setup where you can work remotely. I've stayed home sick before and, when not sleeping, answered e-mails, took phone calls, and even hopped on conference calls. I think this highlights even more that if you are a good employee, you get your work done, and are trustworthy, sick or not, it doesn't matter where you're getting your work done.”

Ok but what about when you report in but fail to be productive?

I’m here but not fully 

A US report found that while employees were absent from work an average of four days per year each, they confessed to being unproductive on the job for 57.5 days each – almost three working months.

Businesses wanting to improve productivity should focus on reducing presenteeism, notes one of the study authors.

According to the Harvard Business Review, quoting researchers, presenteeism—the problem of workers’ being on the job but, because of illness or other medical conditions, not fully functioning—can cut individual productivity by 1/3rd or more.

“And, unlike absenteeism, presenteeism isn’t always apparent: You know when someone doesn’t show up for work, but you often can’t tell when—or how much—illness or a medical condition is hindering someone’s performance (when they show up).