Persistent presenteeism

Workplaces are suffering from persistent presenteeism as up to 28 million employees may be coming into work when ill.

Presenteeism remains a pervasive problem in UK office culture, as nearly half (47%) of employees surveyed reveal they didn’t take a sick day, according to new research[1].

Minor illness
While there has been a small decrease in the number of employees not taking a sick day from 2016 (54%), the tendency to come into the workplace when suffering from a minor illness persists, as nine in ten (88%) admit they go into the office.

The reasons why employees were reluctant to stay at home when ill varied. Over half (53%) stated that even though they were unwell, they felt it did not warrant a day off. A quarter (25%) said their workload was too great for them to take time off, and one in ten (9%) admitted they didn’t feel secure enough in their role to take a sick day.

Positive perceptions
For those concerned about how their colleagues would perceive them, one in five (19%) believe they would be viewed as weak, 17% believe they would be perceived as lazy and 15% believe they would be viewed as inconsiderate. However, positive perceptions were also popular with 17% of workers believing they would be viewed as sensible or genuine, and 15% as honest.

For employees who took time off when unwell, the average number of days taken rose in 2017, from 2.8 to 4.4. Failing to take a sick day can have a significant impact on business performance, as employees fail to recuperate properly. As well as changing perceptions, employers can offer much more to support staff when they are unwell.

Highest proportion
The majority of those who took time off for illness in 2017 were out of the office for between one and five days. Overall, the number who took this amount of time off remained fairly static, at 30% in 2016 and 28% in 2017. However, around one in twelve (8%) took between 11 and 20 sick days in total – the highest proportion since 2015.

Employees say their well-being would improve with flexible working, a positive attitude towards the issue and increased workplace support. Three in ten (28%) say flexible working options would help with both their physical and mental health, and this was particularly popular amongst women, with one third (33%) agreeing.

Workplace attitude
A similar number of workers (27%) also said a more positive workplace attitude towards health and well-being would help, while a fifth (19%) said better workplace support (for example, Employee Assistance Programmes) would be beneficial.

Presenteeism is a vicious cycle; the drive to remain in the office can cause illness to spread or end up leading to a longer recovery time. It is encouraging to see that many employees view those taking time off for illness in a positive way, being described as genuine, honest and sensible. To reduce presenteeism, these positive perceptions must be encouraged so workplaces can reduce any stigma attached to taking time off. τ

Source data
[1] Canada Life 28 September 2018 based on ‘sick days’ 2017.

Different life events

Solutions that work as your priorities change over the years

The future may seem far away, but you need to start planning early. Regardless of your goals, there are things you can do to increase your chances of success! We look objectively at your plans to provide solutions that work as your priorities change over the years and you go through different life events.

Many of us have got things in mind we’d like to do when we retire, whether it’s travelling the world or simply doing more of what you love. But how can you save enough for a decent retirement without having to give up what makes life good today?

Eagerness to retire
According to new research[1], almost three quarters (73%) of people aged 45 or over are longing for the day when their life is no longer confined by their working routine. Yet despite an eagerness to retire, the research shows that almost half (46%) of over-45s with a pension have no idea how much it is currently worth, and that more women (52%) than men (41%) don’t know the value of their own pension savings.

Shift in lifestyle
A fifth (19%) of those aged 45-plus don’t have a pension in place yet. Two thirds of those aged 45-plus (67%) are hoping for a shift in lifestyle, keen to retire early before the State Pension age kicks in. But only one in ten of them (12%) has proactively increased how much they are investing in their pension when they’ve been able to, in order to help make this happen.

Pension freedoms benefits
Once people reach the age of 55 (age 57 from 2028), they can benefit from pension freedoms which allow them to start withdrawing money from their pension savings if they need to. It’s a point at which some key decisions can be made, and the importance of knowing the value of their pension should come sharply into focus. But even among this group of people aged 55–64, some 45% still have their eyes shut and don’t know what their pension savings are worth.

Source data
[1] The research was carried out online for Standard Life by Opinuium. Sample size was 2,001 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Fieldwork was undertaken in November 2017.

Emergency cash

A million more women in their 20s could be saving adequately for retirement if they were able to access emergency cash from their pension, according to a new report[1].

The latest Women & Retirement report highlights that the current lack of flexibility in pensions is a barrier to saving and that introducing the ability to access funds for unexpected bills could provide a much needed boost to the nation’s savings.

Access to money in emergencies
Four in ten (40%) women aged 22–29 who have a pension say they don’t save as much into it as they would like, because they want ready access to money in case of emergencies. This compares to just under a quarter (24%) of men aged 22–29. Around 357,000 women in this age bracket would start saving into a pension for the first time if they could have the option to access some of their savings should they need it[2].

The report revealed that more than two thirds of women aged 22–29 (67%) are not saving enough for retirement, and 25% aren’t saving anything at all. Men of the same age are better prepared, with 46% saving adequately for retirement and fewer not saving at all (17%). The current minimum employer pension contribution through auto-enrolment is 8%. However, the report suggests a combined 12% employer and employee contribution as an adequate level of saving[3].

Widening of the savings gap
At every age, men’s savings outpace women’s, and this could be for a number of reasons, including the gender pay gap, women taking maternity leave, or even choosing to work part-time. The gap widens as savers reach their forties when women have an average of around £23,000 in savings and investments but men have more than £50,000.

Men’s savings continue to grow well into their seventies, where they reach an average of almost £130,000, yet women have around £48,000. Women in their sixties begin to see their savings dip, which could suggest they are accessing their pensions much sooner than men.

Facing some financial difficulties
While problems with money can affect anyone, the research shows that young women are more likely to face financial difficulties than men of the same age[4]. More than half of women aged 22–29 (56%) say they have been in some financial difficulty, versus 50% of men aged 22–29. More than a quarter (27%) of women aged 22–29 also said their money problems were caused by an unexpected bill.

A fifth of women in this age group (21%) say a drop in their income put them into financial difficulty, and one in seven (13%) has faced financial hardship following the breakdown of a relationship.

Attitudes towards pension savings
For a young woman in Britain today, an unexpected bill of £270 would be enough to put them into the red, while young men say they could comfortably manage no more than a £315 bill. Beyond this age group, the gender gap persists with women of all ages (18+) expecting a £308 bill being enough to force them into debt, versus £367 for men.

One in five working women (20%) aged 22–29 feel insecure in their job, compared to one in ten (13%) men, which may affect their attitudes towards savings into a pension. Women also feel less confident in their ability to find a new job if they needed to. Nearly three in ten (28%) say they would not be confident finding a new job within three months, versus 24% of men.

Source data
[1] There are 3,404,279 women aged 22–29 in Great Britain, according to ONS population estimates to mid-2017. According to data from the Scottish Widows Women and Retirement Report 2018, 75% have a pension, and of these, 40% say they don’t save as much into their pension as they would like to because they feel they need the flexibility to access savings if they need them. This equates to 1,021,284 women aged 22–29.
[2] 25% of women aged 22–29 in the UK don’t have a pension. Of these, 42% say they would be likely to start saving into a pension if they were allowed to make a limited number of withdrawals from it during times of financial difficulty. This equates to 357,449 women aged 22-29.
[3] Scottish Widows suggests a combined 12% employer and employee contribution as an adequate level of saving.
[4] ‘Financial difficulties’ is defined as not being able to pay for your current obligations.