By failing to make an effort to rehabilitate ill workers, UK manufacturers are costing the economy up to £610m, a report has suggested.
The study, published by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and disability insurer Unum, said that organisations that rehabilitated employees, had an average sickness absence rate 0.7% lower than those who made less effort.
Over a year this meant an extra 1.5 days attendance per worker – or approximately 4.5 million days of work lost across the manufacturing industry, it calculated.
The report found that the major barriers to rehabilitation that most affected sickness absence rates were: misconceptions about the effect of the employee’s medical condition employee resistance to rehabilitation the role of GPs in promoting rehabilitation, and concern about employees being protected under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Companies investing in rehabilitation and absence management policies, especially training for line managers, generally reported lower absence rates and higher levels of profitability.
More optimistically, nearly nine out of 10 companies had a written policy on absence management, while 38% of managers received training in managing long-term sickness absence, up from 34% in the 2007 survey.
Nearly a third of companies that trained their managers reported a decreasing trend in all types of sickness absence, against 21% where no absence management training was carried out.
Professor Mike O’Donnell, chief medical officer at Unum, said the research highlighted the role of psychosocial factors, including beliefs, fears and advice from family members, in prolonging absence from work.
“Employers and healthcare professionals need much greater awareness of these psychosocial issues when assessing how to help people return to work,” he said.