Mismanagement of the long-term sick is costing UK employers billions of pounds a year

Employers are losing billions of pounds by mismanaging workers on long-term sick leave, according to an expert.

CBI data shows that absence costs the UK £12bn per year, and insurance company UnumProvident believes up to 75% of this cost is from the long-term sick.

UnumProvident chief medical officer, professor Michael O’Donnell, insists many employees could be brought back to work from long absences.

But he says managers are shutting down vital communications with sick workers for fear of harassment claims.

O’Donnell said: “The real issue for many of those off work with long-term health problems is not what caused their sickness but the barriers that are preventing them from recovering.” 

HR staff should ensure managers understand the issues influencing absent employees so they can communicate more effectively, he added.

“There is a big concern that if managers call people while they are off sick, they will be accused of harassment. In fact, most people are happy to be called at home and this is important as it stops people feeling isolated.”

Just asking workers in for a cup of tea can break down the psychological barriers to returning from long-term sick, O’Donnell added.

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