Iain Laws, managing director – UK Healthcare and Group Risk at Jelf Employee Benefits discusses managing sickness absence.
Health and wellbeing strategies can deliver significant returns both in terms of reduced sickness absence and also greater productivity and profitability. This is recognised by many UK manufacturers, according to the latest EEF/Jelf Employee Benefits Absence Survey Report.
In its purest form, we believe a sickness absence policy should encompass three key elements:
1. – Prevention
The most helpful absence policies are those that are implemented for all staff from day one of joining. When staff feel that their employer cares if they’re present or not, it can mean the difference between bouncing out of bed to go to work, or not.
So the key is to let staff know that you do care. As with many absences, early diagnosis and intervention is key to prevent a short-term absence from becoming long-term.
When triggers of stress are identified it is possible to put a solution in place. If left unresolved, the situation can get worse and affect more staff.
2. – Intervention
One of the aspects of a successful sickness absence policy that many employers ignore is intervention. Employers that proactively intervene from day one of absence put themselves in the best position for quicker returns to work.
3. – Protection
When staff are absent, they don’t stop being the employer’s concern. A number of areas of care can still be provided, and it is imperative that managers know what is available and what to expect.
All resources can be brought into play, including access to EAPs, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), private medical insurance (PMI) and group income protection (GIP).
Central absence policy and policing
For an absence policy to be effective it must apply to everyone and it must be policed – this is where many companies do not do themselves justice. It is important for every company to have a policy, whatever their size.
For some companies it may not seem important if one person is off for a short time as the rest of the staff will often rally. But a long-term absence can put pressure on departments already working to capacity.
Let income protection take the strain
Group Income Protection is a much misunderstood insurance by individuals and employers alike. With many commercial insurances, such as property or fleet, the claims incidence will increase premiums, whereas group income protection can be incredibly valuable in offsetting people absence risks, particularly so when utilised.
Like most employer-funded insurances, the better the communication with the provider, the better the engagement and GIP providers all offer a raft of support at no extra charge to help keep staff at work.
GIP can typically cost less than one percent of salary to introduce an element of cover for all staff, with this cost easily recovered from reduction in overall cost of absence, when the policy is fully integrated within company absence management processes.