Eurotunnel refocuses OH in bid to reduce absence rates

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel is overhauling its return-to-work interviews from the start of 2005 in a bid to reduce absenteeism.

From January, any member of staff absent from work, unless they’re on pre-arranged holiday, will be required to attend a return-to-work interview.

“We are extending return-to-work for every type of absence, whether paid or on sick leave, although the depth of the interview will vary. We want to ensure that the return-to-work intervention is really thorough,” Eurotunnel HR manager Sheila Seabourne told Occupational Health.

Return-to-work interviews have traditionally only been used when people have been returning from sickness absence. Under the new system, however, if someone has to take time off to deal with, say, a domestic issue, that will also result in a return-to-work interview, she said.

Seabourne stressed the idea was not about nannying workers but about spending time early on to ideally prevent workers taking further time off in the future.

“If you spend a bit of quality time with your employees, you are much more likely to get beneath the surface and find out what is really going on,” she said.

Eurotunnel, which has 1,323 employees in the UK and 1,952 in France, has refocused the efforts of its OH team to bring it in line with the business strategy.

All managers are trained in attendance management, including how to conduct return-to-work interviews, said Seabourne.

Part of Eurotunnel’s performance bonus is based on an absence target of 2.75 per cent of working time being met. Its human resources department, OH and line managers get together every month to discuss attendance management issues, review absence trends and discuss any intervention needs.

Seabourne said the more proactive return-to-work policy would help OH become more assertive, as it would not necessarily have to wait for an employee or manager to come forward to say there was a problem before intervening.

“If a member of the OH team sees a blip in a department, they will know if people are off with certain types of conditions. They could then ask them to come and see OH or phone them,” she said.

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