In mid-January the Government published their response to the 2011 sickness absence review headed by David Frost CBE and Dame Carol Black.
The response sets out the Government plans for helping to reduce some of the £15 billion cost to the UK economy caused by sickness absence.
They have agreed to implement the core proposal that is a funded Advisory and Assessment Service which will be accessed by those who have been signed off from work for 4 weeks. GP’s will remain as the initial gateway but they and employers will now have access to an Occupational Health service to assist with getting employees back into work.
This is very positive news indeed but we should not lose sight of the impact of short term absence on the UK economy. 93% of absence episodes are four 4 weeks or less. Our 2012 data shows us that 88% were less than 14 days and 81% seven 7 days or less. It is these facts that are crucial to UK businesses. It is these episodes of unplanned absence that cause; disruption to operational efficiencies, stress and low morale amongst employees, increase of temporary staff costs and many other costs associated with unplanned absence.
Managing short term unplanned absence cost effectively should be a top priority for all business leaders because not only will it help to reduce costs but at the same time it will improve employee engagement. As Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive, commented: “This is a time of real opportunity for HR. … Business leaders are looking to HR for creative solutions to the challenges the business faces – but there still needs to be a solid and robust business case for action. Using metrics effectively to inform business decision-making is essential.”
How should we manage the 90%? – Your managers are the key
Ultimately tackling the problem of short term unplanned absence is the responsibility of employers and their managers. Organisations need fair and equitable policies and processes which make every manager accountable for absence within their team, regardless of their level. Having clear and workable processes will help employers like you to; manage Managers, improve manager & employee engagement; provide auditable real time data, improve operational efficiencies and lower administration costs associated with managing unplanned absence.
Managers need to be able to see where they need to manage and senior executives have to be given clear and concise reports so they can manage managers. Only then can targeted and cost effective healthcare interventions be measured and proven. Only then can training and support be effectively targeted.
In our experience, working with some of the UK’s leading brands and over 80,000 employees, we have found transparency and accountability are key to changing attitudes and behaviour around unplanned absence. Employees want to see fair and consistent process, applied at all levels, with clear accountability at an individual, manager and executive level.
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