Employers have rated the involvement of occupational health professionals as the most effective approach for managing long-term absence, and one of the most useful tools at their disposal for combating short-term absence.
The findings in this year’s absence management survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) highlight the growing value put on OH.
The poll of more than 600 employers recorded a sharp decline in private sector employee absence but rates remained pretty static within the public sector, meaning the gap between the two had now widened from 2.6 days per employee per year to 3.3 days.
Overall, workplace absence now averaged 7.4 days per employee per year, down on eight days last year, but still representing a loss of 185 million working days at an overall cost to the UK economy of £17.3bn.
And, with absence costing on average £692 per employee per year, a sharp swine flu-related upturn in absence could prove very costly to the economy, warned CIPD adviser Ben Willmott. But there was also a continuing issue of workers worried about their jobs struggling into work when ill and simply passing on infections, he added.
“Line managers must be aware of changes in employees’ performance and behaviour that might indicate that all is not well,” he said.
“Managers should be having regular one-to-one conversations with their employees, regularly asking them how they are, and have an awareness of what is happening in their lives outside work.”