Probation service offers healthchecks to fight absenteeism

West
Midlands Probation Service is introducing staff health checks to help meet Home
Office absenteeism targets.

According
to the West Midlands service, its employees were absent for an average of 13.4
days last year and each probation officers took on average almost 21 days of sick
leave.

The
Home Office has issued a target of nine days per employee by 2004. It aims to reduce
the estimated cost of absenteeism to the Probation Service of £1 million a
year.

Susanna
Newing, head of personnel at West Midlands Probation Service, is optimistic the
new health checks, which started last month, will help meet the target.

The
voluntary assessments will be offered to the service’s 12,000 employees and
will include a 20-point questionnaire, a urine sample, blood and pulse tests,
vision screening and a "lifestyle discussion".

Participants
will be given verbal feedback and a written report is sent to their home to
ensure confidentiality.

Return-to-work
interviews have been introduced, along with absence warning stages.

Newing
explained, “An employee can get a warning after three absences. The policy
working at its most extreme could lead to an employee being dismissed after
nine warnings.”

West
Midlands Probation Service is also introducing greater employee support for
long-term absentees and is looking to introduce stress management seminars
before April 2002.

Newing
stressed that the West Midlands Probation Service’s record on sickness absence
is typical of the sector.

“Our
record is not acceptable but we are not alone. It is a public sector problem
due to the nature of the work,” she said.

By Paul Nelson

Comments are closed.