Employers rate OH skills as tool for managing long-term absence

More than half of employers with access to occupational health (OH) professionals rate their expertise as one of their three top tools for managing long-term absence, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s annual absence survey.

The Absence management report, in conjunction with healthcare provider Simplyhealth, is considered to be one of the most authoritative snapshots of the sector. It found that more employers rated OH more highly when it came to managing long-term absence than any other tool or intervention.

Of those surveyed, 53% put use of occupational health among their top three tools for managing long-term absence; 26% chose return-to-work interviews; and 23% cited trigger mechanisms to review attendance.

Nearly eight out of 10 of those polled – 77% – also said they used OH to help them manage long-term absence. But when it came to managing short-term absence OH was less effective, the survey showed.

While 55% of employers surveyed said they used OH involvement to manage short-term absence, just 10% rated it as their most effective tool for doing this.

More positively, nearly half of employers said they were now making greater use of OH specialists to help manage stress; and 18% had made changes to involve OH professionals more in their general absence management.

The survey found more than eight out of 10 organisations recorded their annual employee absence rate. The average absence rate was 7.7 days per worker and the larger the organisation, the higher the average level of absence.

As in previous years, the report found the public sector had the highest rate, at 9.6 days per employee, although it stressed this perhaps reflected the sector’s many challenging and stressful public-facing roles.

More than 25% of organisations planning redundancies said they had seen an increase in the number of people coming to work ill.

Fewer than half of employers monitored the cost of absence, the survey found.

Of those that responded, the average mean cost of absence per employee per year was about £693 and the median £600.

But this increased to a median cost of £889 per employee in the public sector.

A total of 38% of the employers polled said they had noticed an increase in mental ill health in the past 12 months and the increases were more pronounced in organisations making redundancies.

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