CBI urges Department of Work and Pensions absence taskforce to stay focused

The CBI has urged a new government taskforce formed to tackle sickness absence to remain focused on the issue at hand.

Work and pensions minister Lord McKenzie announced the ‘vocational rehabilitation’ group, made up of business, government, workers and insurers, to identify why 175 million working days and £13bn are lost to sickness absence each year, and urged employers to do more to support staff.

But while the CBI’s head of health and safety, Janet Asherson, welcomed the fact so many parties were working together, she said: “Joined-up working can cause problems as it makes the issues less focused.”

Asherson also warned that most people have never heard of the term ‘vocational rehabilitation’, stating the taskforce must consider the “simple things” that make a difference to an employee being healthy and happy.

“Managers must learn to detect the early signs of health problems, including stress, family pressures or a need for flexible working hours,” she said. “It is not in the English culture to interfere with health problems, but it is the key to understanding what the problem really is.”

HR directors questioned in a survey by insurer Norwich Union revealed that only 38% thought employee wellbeing was a priority in their company, and 40% had no system for employee health management.

The insurer advises businesses to provide occupational health clinics to tackle the major causes of employee health problems, including stress and back problems.

Employers’ groups have consistently argued that the government should pump extra resources into getting people back to work.

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