Employers looking to OH to assess staff fitness to work

The number of employers using OH professionals to assess employees’ fitness to work went up by 5% last year – but there is still a large gap in OH take-up between large and small employers.

According to the latest annual snapshot of workplace absence by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), with insurer Axa, 87% of organisations used OH professionals last year to assess fitness to work, up from 82% in 2003.

But while all of the 500 organisations with 5,000 or more employees used OH, just 57% of those with fewer than 50 employees did so.

OH also got a vote of confidence, with employers saying the profession was the best placed to assess fitness to work, ahead of employees’ GPs, line managers, employees themselves, senior managers, HR managers and non-specialist doctors or nurses.

Overall, the absence and turnover survey, Who Cares Wins, reported a fall last year in the average number of days taken off by workers, to 6.8 days from 7.2 days in 2003. The direct cost of absence – salary, cover costs and lost service or production – was £495 per employee, equating to £12.2bn.

The best performing organisations lost just 2.7 days per employee, while the worst performers lost an average of 12 days per employee.

Absence was highest among manual employees (8.4 days against six days), in larger organisations (up to four days more), and in organisations that recognised trade unions.

The public sector had the highest rate of absence (9.1 days per employee), followed by transport and communications, distribution and hotels and restaurants.

While four out of five employers monitored the causes of absence, and believed the majority of it was genuine, there were concerns that a significant portion was not genuine.

Nearly three-quarters of employers thought their staff took unauthorised extensions to weekends and holidays.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: “Nobody is saying genuinely ill staff should drag themselves to work. But there are employees who will gladly award themselves a day off when they are in good health at the expense of their colleagues.”

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