Employers often view short-term absence with suspicion and feel it should be punished, according to a survey.
But they welcome the support and advice of OH professionals when it comes to tackling long-term absence.
The research by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was looking at the attitudes of employers towards long-term sickness absence.
It questioned managers in 22 organisations located in areas where it is running its Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilot schemes.
The pilots were launched in 2003 to look at ways of getting workers on long-term sick leave back into the workplace.
The report concluded: “When chief responsibility for dealing with longer-term absences lay with line managers, they sometimes reported lacking the time or skills for this role. When human resources or occupational health staff were available to support and advise them, line managers felt this helped with the task.”
Employers prefer calling employees into the workplace, undertaking home visits or a combination of the two, when it comes to keeping in touch
with absent workers.
Home visits were often viewed as “good practice” because they were seen as an opportunity to keep in touch on work matters, sick pay and the general health of the employee, said the DWP.
Employers were also generally willing to adjust how employees worked to help them return after an absence. This included altering or reducing
working hours, changing tasks, adapting equipment and the place of work, phased returns and redeployment to other jobs when there were vacancies.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was most awareness of what external services were available among HR staff.
Those polled also suggested that better communication between employers and the NHS, including giving GPs more of a role and faster access to medical treatment, would help them better manage long-term absence.