Probation service health checks aim to slash absence figures

West
Midlands Probation Service is to provide staff health checks to help meet Home
Office absenteeism targets and cut an estimated £1m sickness absence bill.

According
to Probation Service figures, probation officers were absent for an average of nearly
21 days last year, with the overall average standing at 13.4 days.

The
Home Office has issued a target of nine days per employee by 2004.

Susanna
Newing, head of personnel at West Midlands Probation Service, is hopeful that
the new initiative will help it meet the target.

"It
is a tall order and there is certainly a lot more work to do but I shall give
it my best shot. The aim of the health checks are to pick up any possible
problems early on," she said.

The
voluntary health checks, which start next month, will be offered to the
service’s 12,000 employees and will include a 20-question questionnaire, a
urine sample, blood and pulse tests, vision screening, as well as a life-style
discussion.

Participates
will get verbal feedback and a report sent to their home address to ensure
confidentiality.

By
Ben Willmott

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