The Metropolitan Police Authority has saved more than £30m in the past two years by focusing on the health and fitness of its employees.
Following the launch of a £350,000 workplace health campaign in 2003, absence levels at the Met have fallen from 10.2 days to 7.1 days at the end of September 2005.
The Met, which employs more than 47,000 staff, estimates that it saves £10m for every day cut off the average absence level, covering the cost of sick pay and employing extra officers.
The £30m savings estimate could be conservative, however, as it does not take into account the return on investment (ROI) that comes through the increased productivity of staff. New research, from wellbeing consultancy Vielife, shows that workplace wellbeing programmes can produce a ROI of nearly 400% by boosting productivity.
The Metropolitan Police Authority has taken a three-pronged approach to tackling health. It has created a sickness management procedure, with trigger points for management intervention based on the amount of time officers take off sick.
It has also designated occupational health teams to travel between different ‘commands’ across the capital, targeting areas with high absence figures, while health promotion vans tour Met areas offering free health tests for staff and officers.
Martin Tiplady, HR director at the Met, said actively encouraging staff and officers to look at their health was vital to bringing down absence figures. After officers join the service and have their initial fitness test, there are no further tests unless they are in a specialist unit.
“We have no means of doing anything for the others except offering them help,” said Tiplady.
The scheme achieved 25% take-up following a poster campaign and after managers told staff the free tests were worth £150.
How did the Met improve the health of its staff?
- The promotion focused on physical fitness, diet, mental health (stress) and cancer-related illnesses as part of a £350,000 campaign to get officers and staff to focus on their own physical wellbeing.
- Two health promotion vans toured police headquarters across London offering services including body mass index tests, blood tests and general health evaluations. Staff were also encouraged to try on a prosthetic stomach, weighing 21lbs, to highlight the impact extra weight has on the body. Visit the Personnel Today stand (B98) at the CIPD conference this week, to try it on.
- The tests were carried out by occupational health nurses and physical training specialists and staff were given feedback on how they could improve their health.