HBOS Retail looks to HR to tackle absence cases

The
HR department at Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) Retail has shown that in more
than two-thirds of absence cases, doctors need not be involved.

After
reappraising the root problems of absence, HBOS Retail found that in 70 per
cent of cases, absence was due to non-medical problems and could be tackled by
HR.

Last
month, research by Personnel Today and Doctor magazine found that 80 per cent
of doctors do not want to write sicknotes, while 77 per cent admit to issuing
sicknotes too easily.

Under
a new ‘management by cause’ approach, HBOS Retail now recommends that staff go
to HR first, rather than their GP, to see if it can resolve the underlying
causes of their problems.

The
company measured ab-sence in 15 designated project areas, containing 6,000
workers, against non-project areas, and found a 35 per cent drop in
absenteeism, as well as annual savings of £800,000 and 21,000 days in
productivity.

To
prepare HR staff, HBOS Retail gave training on the wider issues of absence and
offered best practice models, and put this in context with HR’s role in
supporting managers.

Mary
McFadzean, organisational health manager, Retail HR at HBOS, said employers
often feel their hands are tied because absence is related to health issues,
when a large majority is actually linked to the organisational culture.

"HR
needs to be brave enough to dig beneath the surface and find out what’s really
wrong," she said. "For example, stress is a symptom of a problem, not
the problem itself."

McFadzean
now hopes the project will be rolled out to all 60,000 employees at HBOS.

By
Michael Millar

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