Causal effect could be the cure for sickness absence

Mark Godfrey’s letter (Personnel Today, 13 June), suggesting that size is the real reason behind higher public sector absence levels, seeks almost to justify the levels without addressing the real issue. That is the cost of absence and the need to understand and manage the causes of absence.

The larger the organisation, the greater the cost and the greater the scope for reducing the cost. Since, in the public sector, it is public money being spent, employers have a clear duty to try to reduce absence levels, while accepting that there will be an irreducible minimum.

It is surely the responsibility of every employer, public sector or private, to recognise that some occupations may carry a risk to health, and to address and manage those risks. This might be by providing personal protection equipment for workers on a building site, or by providing adequate support to staff in local authority social services organisations, whose jobs might carry potentially high levels of stress.

Since levels of absence are often considered to be an indicator of the level of employee engagement, employers also might need to consider what action they should take to address issues such as poor working conditions or ineffective management.

Ian Wilder
Corporate Investors in People project manager,
Ministry of Defence

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