OH eases return to work

A CIPD survey finds OH involvement is effective in getting people back to
work after sickness absence

Employees take an average of 10 days off sick each year, costing the UK
economy £13bn a year, a study has said.

The Employee Absence 2002 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development found sickness absence costs employers an average of £522 for each
employee per year.

Sickness absence rates have increased slightly from last year, when an
average of 9.3 days were lost per employee.

The use of OH professionals to minimise long-term absence was favoured by 77
per cent of employers, the study of 1,312 organisations found.

Other strategies included providing sickness absence information to line
managers (used by 81 per cent of organisations), absence triggers (78 per
cent), reducing sick pay after a specified period of absence (76 per cent) and
disciplinary action for unjustified absence (75 per cent).

Stress was the most common cause of long-term absence (more than four weeks)
for non-manual staff, cited by 44 per cent of those polled.

The second most frequently cited cause was acute medical conditions,
reported by 28 per cent.

For manual workers, back pain was the primary reason for sickness absence,
with 30 per cent reporting this. Long-term absence accounted for about a fifth
of all absence overall.

To get people back to work after a long period off sick, employers most
commonly maintained regular contact with their employees, conducted return-to-work
interviews and offered reduced working hours on a temporary or permanent basis.

Other findings included:

– Just under half of employers had a target for a reduction in aggregate
absence rates. Where such targets were in place they typically took the form of
a reduction to between 3 per cent and 3.9 per cent of working time, or around
seven to nine days per employee per year

– The most common cause of absence for both manual and non-manual staff was
minor illnesses such as colds or flu

Diane Sinclair, the CIPD’s lead adviser on public policy, said: "Our
survey suggests that organisations need to do more to tackle stress among their
staff. Both the reasons for work-related stress and its symptoms need to be

"The respondents to our study believe that keeping in regular contact
with the absent employee and involving occupational health professionals are
the most effective ways of getting people back to work after a long period off


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