“Double Whammy” – is this really the cause of high sickness rates and associated costs? Or is it really a “Triple Whammy”?

It is with real interest that I read the Sunday Times “NHS workers face sack over double whammy sick pay” article.

It is understandable that there is a lot of resistance to such draconian measures to try and solve an issue that affects so many employees and is of direct interest to every tax payer. Will changing employment terms reduce cost or change the way absence is managed?

I doubt it. Why is it that employees who take too much short term absence are spoken of in the same breath as those employees who have a great attendance record? Is that fair? What is it that is preventing managers from dealing with employees who have too much short term absence? In my experience, most NHS Trusts have a comprehensive attendance policy that has a clearly defined process for dealing with employees who take too much short term absence. In fact most Trusts have spent small fortune paying consultants to develop such policy. However, despite having these policies, few, if any trusts have a process to make the policy work and worse still, few have managers or leaders who are prepared to have difficult conversations with those employees who do breach the terms of the HR policy.

Even if there is an intention to act in such cases, most trusts do not have effective systems and management to carry through the process.

In our experience, more than 80% of absence episodes are 7 days or less. In these cases, there is little that a clinician can do to help the employee back to work quicker. Essentially, 80% of absence management is down to “management” and the ability to manage the managers, as well as supporting them through what is often a difficult process.

It seems that these measures may in be a double whammy but not for the reasons highlighted in the article. It is more likely that those employees who have a bad attendance record will become even more frequent absentees, good employees will get even more fed up with bad employees not being managed. Finally managers will have even more pressure but still have the same ineffective process, poor system and lack of information with which to manage… adding that up makes at least a triple whammy!

I await with eager anticipation to see an NHS trust that really is prepared to tackle the core issues in a fair, consistent and business like manner.

MATT BERGMANN-SMITH
Matthew has extensive business experience having worked in production environments, product development, sales and at board level with a number of employers during his early business years.

He has worked in diverse range of businesses, ranging from water sports clothing to medical technology, development and consulting. He totally understands that customer focus is the key to delivering technology and services that really work for the user and the customer.