Sickness Absence

sickness_absenceSickness absence can have devastating effects on the productivity and competitiveness of your business and the health and well being of your employees. The careful and objective management of individuals with sickness absence is therefore vital for all small and medium enterprises. We believe that an occupational health service can and must influence sickness absence by providing an effective, efficient and objective service to the individual and the organisation.

We believe that this is best achieved by case management and the use of proven interventions that allow a safe return to work at the earliest and most opportune time.

It is vital to identify the barriers and obstacles that are preventing the return to work and then to develop and agree the action plan that will remove or minimise these and allow a return to work. We employ nurses as the primary case managers who can call on our multidisciplinary team of doctors, physiotherapists, mental health specialists and external specialists.

Interventions Used»

  • Sickness absence/rehabilitation policy
  • Early review of the individual
  • Nurse led case management
  • Effective communication with the individual during and after the return to work
  • Goal setting with the individual
  • Early and effective advanced treatment
  • Vocational and external rehabilitation programmes
  • Functional capacity evaluations
  • External specialist referral/independent medical examinations
  • Clinical pathways
  • Disability duration guidelines
  • Treatment protocols
  • Education programmes and resources
  • Job analysis
  • Workplace control or adjustment advice
  • Early return to work/recovery programmes

What Is Sickness Absence

Whitaker has defined sickness absence as: “Absence from work attributed to sickness by the employee and accepted by the employer”.
Sickness absence is usually separated into two types, short term and long term absence, with the separation occurring after 7 days of absence.

Surveys have indicated that the most common causes of short term sickness absence are: colds, stomach upsets and headaches. For long term sickness absence the most common causes are: musculo-skeletal injuries and back pain, stress and mental health difficulties.

Statistics On Sickness Absence

  • Long term sickness absence costs UK business £3.8 million a year (HSE 2004)
  • Total sickness absence costs approximately £14 billion a year
  • Sickness absence averages 4% or 9.1 days/year (CIPD 2004)
  • Sickness absence costs £588/employee (CIPD 2004)
  • Occupational Health is seen as the most effective tool in managing long term sickness absence (CIPD 2004)

Factors That Influence Sickness Absence
Sickness absence is affected by a variety of factors and it is vital when assessing an individual that all factors are considered. An occupational health service must consider the medical issues that are causing absence along with the psychosocial aspect that may contribute to this absence, such as:
Geographical Factors»

  • Provision of healthcare
  • Social insurance
  • Sickness certification
  • Pension age
  • Social attitude
  • Availability of alternative employment
  • Unemployment levels
  • Nature of industry

Organisational Factors

  • Working conditions
  • Job demand
  • Size of business
  • Industrial relations
  • Supervisory quality
  • Personnel policies
  • Occupational Health services

Personal Factors

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Occupational status
  • Job satisfaction
  • Length of service
  • Personality
  • Life crisis
  • Family responsibilities
  • Social support
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Health status


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