Sickness busting schemes lead to absence increase

A heavy-handed approach to managing sick leave leads to an increase in days lost through illness, an occupational health expert has claimed.

Dr Mike Orton, formerly an occupational health doctor for BMI, a provider of outsourced occupational health services, said an authoritarian approach to sick leave alienates staff and annoys GPs.

Orton told delegates at yesterday’s IRS occupational health conference in London that trials of a strict sickness monitoring system caused sickness absence to increase by more than 10 per cent during trials at a Marks and Spencer store.

Although the scheme initially reduced the number of sick days, staff eventually became so annoyed by the scheme that they began to rebel.

The store initially had 71 days of sick leave in the first quarter, dropping to just 20 days in the first quarter after management introduced the scheme but rose to 80 days by the end of the year.

He said: "The local GP had a pile of signed sick notes in his practice especially for the Marks & Spencer staff because he became so annoyed with the scheme."

Orton said the best way to reduce sickness absence was to improve workplace conditions and reduce stress by training staff and managers to improve communication skills.


By Richard Staines




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