Minister urges company boards to take absenteeism seriously

Executives need to lead from the top if they want to cut the multi-billion pound cost of sickness absence, according to the heath and safety minister Lord Hunt.

The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate puts the cost to the economy at around £12 billion per year, with absenteeism in the private sector making up around £8bn of the total.

Hunt told a summit of human resources directors that the issue needed to be treated seriously at board level.

“Sickness absence and return to work policies are only worth having if they have the full support of directors and top-level managers. After all, leadership starts from the top,” he said.

He called on employers to make greater use of the HSE’s stress management standards, launched in 2004, which give employers simple steps to follow to identify stress at an early stage.

“The management standards are key to bringing about change and are vital if we are to continue improving the fabric of our society as an inclusive and prosperous nation and continue ensuring that individuals have access to fulfilling employment in a healthy and safe working environment,” Hunt said.

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