HBOS looks to HR and OH to help tackle persistent absence

Banking
giant Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) has made 20 of its HR staff ‘absence
champions’ in an effort to improve how its personnel professionals manage
absence among its 38,000 staff.

The
bank is encouraging its HR staff to look at how they deal with persistent
absence and whether they are doing enough to offer staff  adjustments to their work practices and
environment.

Last
year, the bank carried out a reappraisal of its absence procedures, and found
that in half the cases of short-term absence, a doctor did not necessarily need
to be involved.

Mary
McFadzean, organisational health manager for Retail HR at HBOS, said that
short-term absence was often the result of personal or social stresses or
pressures linked to issues surrounding organisational culture.

In
these instances, HR would often be as well, if not better, qualified than GPs
to suggest workplace adjustments, so should not be afraid to get involved.

When
an employee was persistently off sick, HR could have just as much of a role to play
as the GP in helping to uncover and address any underlying problems, she
suggested.

But
she stressed she was not suggesting making it mandatory to visit HR before
going to a doctor or trying to dissuade people from seeing their GP.

“It’s
about everyone working together to try to build trust between individuals,
managers and HR,” she said.

Just
writing to the GP for suggested adjustments, as many HR professionals felt
limited to do, was often a waste of time.

"HR
has to have the confidence to tackle some of these issues, and there’s much OH
can also do to pass on its knowledge. When you get a sicknote, that’s fine, but
there is a lot HR can do," said McFadzean, who is a member of the Royal
College of Nursing’s OH managers’ forum steering committee.

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