Working when sick is bad for health and for business

WORKING when you are sick, known as ‘presenteeism’, is bad for both health and productivity, an expert says.

Professor Kevin Dew, from the School of Social and Cultural Studies at the Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, wrote in a British Medical Journal editorial that evidence suggests the pressure to work when sick is “intense”, particularly in jobs involving caring or teaching.

“More effort is needed to prevent this health-debilitating behaviour,” he wrote, citing a study that showed when a third of doctors and nurses worked instead of taking sick leave, their working capacity was nearly halved.

BMJ 2011, online 9 June

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