Failing to spot sickness trends costs UK £11.8bn

Employers
are failing to make an intelligent diagnosis of workplace sickness absence and
it is costing them £11.8bn a year, and rising.

Widespread
concerns about UK plc’s ability to manage incapacity were aired at the
Employers’ Law Briefing: Managing Incapacity, a conference organised last week
by Personnel Today’s sister journal Employers’ Law in association with Allen
& Overy.

Stephen
Bevan, deputy director of research at the Work Foundation, told delegates that
3,000 UK workers each week move from long-term sickness absence into incapacity
benefit. Fewer than 30 will ever work again.

UK
employers are spending up to 16 per cent of their pay bill each year on
managing sickness absence and up to 70 per cent of these costs are attributable
to long-term absence.

Mental
and nervous illness, gastro-intestinal problems and general injuries are the
largest growth areas.

Karen
Seward, employment partner at Allen & Overy, urged HR managers to learn
from these statistics and take action now in monitoring, sickness absence,
developing effective tools and training line managers. She said the penalties
of not tackling the issue properly can be severe.

Rehabilitation,
along with early intervention, is felt by many to be the key to job retention.

Work
Foundation research reveals the majority of employers do have written policies
including rehabilitation, but there are barriers such as line-manager attitude,
limited NHS capacity and employee resistance.

There
are currently 44 different ways to measure sickness absence, but it is widely
accepted that recording of information by line managers is poor, and there are
often disparities between occupational health and HR in managing the problem.

Will
Hutton, chief executive of the Work Foundation, said the sickness absence
problem is closely linked to the UK’s poor productivity and concerns about the
quality of managers and leaders in business.

The
Work Foundation is conducting a year-long project on behalf of the Department
of Trade and Industry into productivity and how it relates to the quality of
life. It is consulting widely and welcomes papers from the HR profession.

By
Jane King

Key
points


More attention to prevention and risk assessment


Quantify, measure and monitor the problem


Consider role of line management


Use OH support


Make rehabilitation work


Convert policy into practice

www.theworkfoundation.com

Comments are closed.