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Most people have a few days off sick at some time during their working life. Flu, the common cold and "tummy upsets" can strike anyone at any time. But such absences can also be the result of occupational incidents, for example a workplace accident or injury. But whatever the cause the employer should be taking an interest in why his employees are not at work.
Sometimes a short absence, or more commonly a series of short absences is an indicator of something more serious and can lead to long-term absence. Sickness absence costs:
Sickness absence can be especially critical for the smaller firm where there is less opportunity to "cover" a missing person. The management of sickness absence and helping those who are absent to return to work as soon as possible will benefit all firms. But such activity can only be achieved by collaboration with employees and the adoption of clear and agreed procedures. However, there are benefits for both employer and employee. For the company it is possible to:
And for employees there is the clear financial benefit of an early return to work coupled with improved health and well-being.
As a first step it is important that sickness absence is monitored. The number and length of absences should be recorded together with the reasons for the absence. When employees return to work they should be interviewed.
However, it is important that this activity is not misunderstood by employees nor viewed in the wrong manner. For example the return to work interview should be positioned as being to aid the employee's return to work and not as attempt to find fault, or to discourage futures absences.
Some important Do's and Don'ts
In order to achieve success it is essential to adopt the correct approach when implementing return to work strategies.
Return to Work Strategies
Contrary to popular belief there are many approaches that can be used to enable an employee to return to work in a safe and managed fashion. And these approaches are not necessarily expensive. The following examples indicate the type of approaches that may be used:
Whilst the last of these might be viewed as an expensive option low-cost treatment is available and the number of visits may not be excessive. The use of such services often helps identify which of the other options will be of value e.g. modification to the job or workplace.
Long-term Absences and Rehabilitation
When long-term absences are involved the use of rehabilitation is more common. Rehabilitation is the term used to describe various different techniques and approaches designed to return a person to work. It is not possible to describe all possible approaches here but they include physiotherapy, occupational therapy and pain management. The exact approach necessary is a matter for technical guidance and assistance.
With long-term absences it is more likely that the medical profession may be involved since the employee will almost certainly have been seen by their GP. The medical profession must be involved in every step. In addition, if the absence is the result of a workplace accident then the employee may have approached their legal adviser or trade union and be considering, or have initiated, a claim against the company. In such circumstances it is essential to involve the firms Employers' Liability insurer.
There are certain key principles that need to be adopted:
Ensure an employee centred approach is adopted:
HSE Six Elements to Sickness Management
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.
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