At the start of January, we held a HR Breakfast Masterclass in our London office with guest speaker Helen Giles. Thank you to those who were able to attend.

Whether or not you were able to join us, we have provided a useful summary of the key points that came out of our seminar on Sickness Management and Occupational Health.

  1. Excessive absence costs your business or organisation - Our speaker quoted that every 1% of excess sickness absence costs 1% of the total pay bill, as well as effecting service continuity and quality, your organisation's reputation, and morale.
  2. Your workplace culture will impact on attendance, so be wary of a poor working environment - Harsh/rigid working patterns, lack of empathy, bullying behaviours and poor management will all contribute to a culture of non attendance.
  3. Positive working environments and worker wellbeing are both key to preventing and reducing sickness absences - Aim for good management practices, a decent work/life balance, flexible working and health promotion.
  4. Recording and monitoring absence - Ensure there are systems and processes in place for recording and monitoring absence that are reliable, and that your employees fully engage with your reporting processes, to make sure they are effective.
  5. Communicate expectations and clarify responsibilities - Often in a culture where poor attendance is tolerated employees will not understand the implications of poor attendance because they have not been told otherwise. Ensure line managers are responsible for short term absence management and lead on excellent attendance, though ensure that they are also supported and have the skills to do this through appropriate training.
  6. Effective interventions for long term absence - Involve Occupational Health (OH), keep in touch, allow gradual/staged return to work, and consider changing working patterns and using rehabilitation programmes. Remember, disability and illness does not entitle an employee to time off indefinitely, and so where you have done all you can to return someone to work without success then take legal advice on the next steps.
  7. Consider sickness policy and procedure trigger points and review periods - Establish a volume and frequency trigger.
  8. Getting the initial letter of instruction for Occupational Health right is crucial - Including a factual background, summary and reason why you are making the referral is key to assisting OH in providing answers that are relevant and helpful. Ask direct questions and don’t forget that the employee may ask to see the OH referral letter in the future.
  9. Remember OH should influence and inform decisions and not make them for you - Don't hesitate in going back to OH with further queries and challenges.
  10. Frequent use of OH - If you are a frequent user of OH, meet with them to discuss further what you need from their reports.