People working while sick costs Switzerland 5 billion francs a year

People working while sick costs Switzerland 5 billion francs a year

A new study from HES in Bern has revealed that, far from boosting profits, people who go to work sick cost the Swiss economy billions every year. The report found that a majority of people in Switzerland would still try to do their jobs if they were ill.

Majority of Swiss workers would still work while sick

According to the survey, quoted in the Sunday edition of the Tages-Anzeiger, approximately 65 percent of the Swiss population practice so-called “presenteeism.” This refers to a phenomenon where people continue to go to work, even if they are ill enough to take time off as sick leave.

When asked why they chose to work while they were ill, most said that practical considerations make sick leave less attractive. Among others, these included the lack of someone to cover the workload, the amount of work that would result in taking a day to recover and someone’s position within the company being deemed "too essential" to allow for time off.

Mental barriers were also a key factor for presentee workers, the most common being a “sense of duty” to their role, the fear of losing their job and their overall financial situation. The study also noted that women are more likely than men to go to work despite being sick.

Presenteeism costs Switzerland 5 billion francs a year

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, psychologist Nicole Kopp called presenteeism culture “evil”, as not only does it have a dramatic impact on the physical and mental health of workers, but there is evidence to suggest that it does businesses more harm than good. According to the HES study, presenteeism costs Switzerland 5 billion francs a year in lost productivity.

This is because ill workers are more likely to be unproductive and produce work with errors. Ill staff also have the potential to infect other staff, making the problem exponentially worse. Experts added that working from home does not make things better, noting that home workers are the most likely to clock in, even if they are very ill.

In all, HES called for entrepreneurs to inform their employees about presenteeism, highlighting its risks. According to a similar study conducted in Germany, 65 percent of German workers have never discussed the problem with their employer. 

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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