Catering firm finds recipe to deal with long-term illness

Catering company Sodexho Scotland has cut its long-term absenteeism rate by
78 per cent in two years after improving management training on the issue.

Gerry Coyle, Sodexho’s HR manager, said a database set up in August 1999
showed that the company had nearly 120 of its 3,000 staff on long-term
absenteeism leave.

The company’s HR team has managed to reduce this to only 27 staff after
introducing a number of initiatives.

Coyle said a management training scheme has been particularly effective in
tackling the problem. He said, "The course educates line managers in how
to deal with staff who are ill and unable to return to work for a long time. It
teaches them about counselling and how to deal with the issue sensitively.

Coyle told Personnel Today that one-to-one meetings with staff on long-term
sick leave have also proved effective. He said, "We meet all long-term
absents and, along with other evidence including doctor reports, assess if they
can come back to work.

"If they are not fit enough to return to their current role then we
would move them to a role that suits them better."

Coyle added that if staff cannot come back to work then Sodexho gives them counselling
to help them cope and promises to re-employ them if their situation changes for
the better.

"The success of the practice is proved not only by the reduction in
absenteeism but also the fact we have not had a single complaint from any
employee who has had to be let go," he added.

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