Why hay fever is not to be sneezed at by employers

Hayley Kirton
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The greenery may be nice but how many working days will it cost your company this year? (Source: Getty)

Hay fever: A big cause of runny noses, red eyes and, according to new research, lack of work being done at the office.

The survey by the Met Office discovered that hay fever costs UK employers 29m days worth of lost work per year, with employees who suffer from severe hay fever needing an average of 8.4 days away from their desk.

According to the research, almost half (41 per cent) of UK adults of working age struggle with hay fever to some extent, while more than one in ten (11 per cent) suffer with hay fever so bad that it prevents them from going into work.

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Even those whose hay fever is not so terrible that it renders them unable to do a day's work still feel the effects of the common pollen allergy. The mild suffers surveyed estimated that they're not on top form on 11.2 working days each year thanks to their hay fever symptoms, and, on such days, people feel their productivity drops by around a quarter.

"Hay fever can be crippling for those who suffer from it – much more than just a sniffly nose – and it is often overlooked as a factor which prevents people being able to go to work," said Derrick Ryall, head of the Public Weather Service at the Met Office."

Read more: Here's why your office is so unproductive

Fortunately, the Met Office now has an app for all of that. Ryall explained that the Met Office's new mobile weather app meant that "those who suffer with severe hay fever can find out what the day and week ahead holds for them, allowing them to plan accordingly – be that working from home or taking preventative medication – to help put them back in control".

Meanwhile, Rachel Suff, employment relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) told City A.M.: "The fact that, for some, hay fever can be chronic and debilitating is often overlooked by employers and it would benefit both the individual and organisation if there is clear guidance on how to support people who suffer from this seasonal condition.

"If the pollen count is particularly high and an employee is feeling ill because of it, they should be able to discuss their situation with their line manager. It may be possible for the employer to provide some temporary flexibility, such as working from home or reduced hours, to support the individual."

Previous research has shown how poor employee health can seriously damage businesses' bottom lines. A study by the CIPD found that staff absences now cost employers an average of £554 per employee per year.

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