More than a quarter of employers believe their investment in occupational health has directly contributed to a successful reduction in absence over the long term, this year’s Confederation of British Industry absence survey has shown.
The CBI/Pfizer study found that 36% of employers polled cited “greater investment in occupational health” as their reason for a long-term decline in absence, behind “closer monitoring and management of absence” (80%) but on a par with “changing workplace culture”.
The On the Path to Recovery survey concluded that, overall, employees took 180 million sick days last year, averaging 6.4 days each.
But the rate of absence was now at its lowest rate since the CBI began polling on the issue back in 1987 and down from 6.7 days recorded in 2007, as the poll did not run last year.
The total cost of this absence to employers was £16.8bn in 2009, it estimated, with the 241 HR professionals polled calculating that some 15% of the sick days taken were not genuine.
Larger organisations, by and large, had higher rates of absence than smaller ones, but many firms had also increased their use of structured rehabilitation plans to get people back to work.
Three quarters of those polled also said they operated employee wellbeing policies, with occupational health advice and personal counselling provision being the most widespread.
There had also been rapid growth in programmes to help employees with healthy eating and tackling drink and drugs problems, it added.
Nearly two-thirds wanted to see better OH training for GPs, with more than half calling for better working relationships between GPs and OH professionals, and 41% wanting more flexible GP hours.