Sickness Absence Management

The Employment Team has recently welcomed in excess of 60 clients to a seminar entitled - Managing Sickness Absence Pro-actively.

Many of those attending confirmed that absence both long term and short term, (short but often frequent and unplanned), was a cause of some concern in their business.

The one absolute fact to be gleaned from the presentation, workshops and discussions that took place was that absence costs.  Indeed a number of headline statistics bear witness to this fact. 

The independent review of sickness absence entitled Health at Work, prepared by Dame Carol Black and entitled "Health at Work" stated that a staggering 300,000 people each year fall out of work and into the welfare system because of health related issues.  The review further states that employers face an annual bill of £9 billion pounds for sick pay and associated costs, and that the state spends £13 billion a year on health related benefits.

It was apparent that employers often lack the confidence to deal proactively with absence and there was an agreement that a robust sickness management policy was a good place to start. 

Those present also agreed that in any individual case of sickness absence, communication was key from the initial stages of absence.  It was generally acknowledged that communication is often poor or in some cases non-existent and that this absence of communication can in many circumstances provide a barrier to an individual employee returning to the workplace.  Again, communication can be facilitated by the "fit note procedure" whereby a "may be fit to work" indication should prompt some dialogue between the absent employee and their line manager.  Equally important a Sickness Absence Policy which places a mutual obligation on both the employer and employee can be a useful management tool in establishing a routine of communication and achieving a balance between genuine concern and support for the individual and conduct which could be deemed to be oppressive, intrusive or even akin to harassment. 

The overall consensus was that early intervention and proactive management coupled with good communication was a key to reducing absence and saving costs.  The greatest challenge of all is having the confidence to put all the things we know make good sense into practice. 

Posted on: 21/07/2014

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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