This month’s letters

April Fool not so far-fetched?

Thank you to Joan Lewis and Linda Goldman for revealing the future of OH in
‘A political issue’ (Occupational Health, April 2003).

As the powerful collective of OH nursing organisations begins to flex its
lobbying muscle, I allow myself to dream about the outcome.

If I were to ask you to suspend your disbelief and dream with me, with no
possibility of failure, tell me this:

– Who will the minister be?

– Can we influence this decision?

– What will a minister for occupational health do for our profession?

– When will the collective reach a critical mass?

– Does the collective know your views?

Yes, I believe a critical mass is needed. Each voice that we can add to the
collective brings it more power. I urge you to add yours. Do you share this

If this dream is to become a reality, what action do you (yes you) need to

Claire Raistrick
Advocate for the ‘Department of Occupational Health’

Editor’s reply: In the April issue of OH, we published an April Fool’s
article by Linda Goldman and Joan Lewis, which described plans to introduce a
new extra-governmental organisation to reorganise internal processes (EGOTRIP),
with the formation of a Department for Occupational Health. But maybe this idea
is not as far-fetched as it first seemed?

Management holds key to absenteeism

Reading the April edition of Occupational Health, it is interesting, but not
surprising, that three articles are dedicated to the issue of absenteeism and
rehabilitation in the workplace.

The absence of an employee for a long period of time naturally puts pressure
on an organisation, in terms of the costs of covering absence and also the
morale of team workers.

Achieving the smooth return to work of an employee who has been absent for
some time, requires early steps to be taken to establish a non-threatening
rapport with the individual concerned.

If the emphasis in managing sickness absence transfers from the GP to the
employer, (as correctly outlined in Graham Johnson’s article ‘Sickness absence
cure’), it is essential that management has the appropriate skills and
expertise to deal with this issue.

I have met many managers who see the return-to-work interview as just
another procedure that has to be carried out.

Bill, one of my client departmental managers, told me: "It is just
something I usually do while walking down the corridor, and I get the employee
to sign on the dotted line before I even get to my office."

If management are to be proactively involved in this process, they need a
full understanding of the reasons behind the initiative, and training to ensure
they have good communication skills, so that discussions between them and their
employees take place as an ongoing process, and not just when they are absent.

Management has the key to absenteeism. OH is essentially in place when
needed for its specific expertise, but management are there on the shopfloor to
identify and diffuse issues as and when they occur, and before they get out of

The ‘Bills’ of this world cannot be expected to perform their job
effectively, unless they have the tools to do the job.

People are not necessarily born ‘good communicators and listeners’. They
need training, and organisations need to invest in developing people management

Carole Spiers
Carole Spiers Group, Corporate Wellbeing Consultants

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