Lowering the cost of employee sickness absence

Lisa Gettins, equity partner for employment at BPE Solicitors, advises how businesses can manage longstanding sickness absence more effectively.

Lisa Gettins, equity partner - Employment, BPE Solicitors LLP
Lisa Gettins, equity partner – employment, BPE Solicitors LLP.

The average sick pay cost per employee per annum is £374, giving a total cost across the manufacturing sector of £1bn. According to the EEF Survey, many companies do not have systems in place to deal with long-term absence.

Ensuring effective sickness absence policies are in place and establishing a proactive approach to spotting potential absentees before problems occur is essential to keeping costs and absence down.

A third of employers told EEF they relied on the NHS alone to manage absence. While the Government’s new Fit for Work Scheme does aim to provide an occupational health assessment and a bespoke return to work plan, so far evidence suggests that, in practice, employers haven’t seen much improvement.

Employers, particularly in manufacturing where health and safety is paramount, may wish to incorporate mental health screening into their general employee health screening.

With the help of training, to help managers recognise signs of stress related illness, and employee screening, the likelihood of successful early intervention is vastly improved.

Data on more than 3,500 employees that used an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in 2013 found the percentage that were struggling with workplace pressures fell from 51% before counselling, to just 5% afterwards.

Additionally, the EEF Survey found that access to online counselling, which often comes as part of an EAP was the most significant benefit offered to reduce absence (71%).

Overall the take home message from the EEF survey is that all employers, but particularly those in the manufacturing industry, need to become more accustomed to utilising occupational health services, employee assistance programmes and wellbeing health checks to compliment effective internal return to work policies, rather than simply relying on the NHS to get their employees back to work as soon as possible.

For more information, contact BPE Solicitors’ Lisa Gettins at lisa.gettins@bpe.co.uk or on 01242 248237.