Royal Mail saved £227m in three years by providing health screening and physiotherapy for its employees. If other organisations followed suit it could save the UK as much as £1.5bn a year, a study by the London School of Economics (LSE) has suggested.
The postal service cut its sickness absence by more than a quarter between 2004 and 2007 through the introduction of rapid-access physiotherapy, locating clinics at big sorting offices, providing health screening and running health promotions, including for smoking and back pain.
Absence levels were reduced from 7% to 5% in that time, the equivalent of bringing back an extra 3,600 full-time employees, the LSE’s Rude Health report calculated.
Adopting Royal Mail’s approach in sectors with the poorest OH record, including central and local government, health, education, transport and retail, could bring 94,000 absent workers back into work, it added. This would save the economy £1.45bn paid out in benefits and healthcare. Other sectors that could do with tackling high levels of absence include housing associations, charities, printing, textiles and the food industry.
“For Royal Mail Group, tackling absence has been a critical factor in helping the organisation towards meeting its objective of becoming demonstrably the best and most trusted mail company in the world,” said the report’s author David Marsden, a professor at the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance.
“The blueprint that Royal Mail has set should provide a benchmark for other UK organisations… following this blueprint will have significant benefits, not only for individual organisations themselves. In the case of the UK’s worst performing sectors, Royal Mail Group’s example could provide a significant boost to the health of the UK economy.”
Royal Mail chief medical adviser Steve Boorman stressed there was a need to educate staff on their responsibility to their employers, as well as the effect of their absence.
“Individuals may not truly understand how vital and valued they are as a part of the workforce or the importance of being at work – both for them, and for their employer. It is important that businesses and employees work together to address issues, whether they are medical or non-medical, to help people return to work,” he said.