Absence Management

Many referrals to our OH Service are for the management of absence, be it a long term absence issues or recurring periods of absence or sometimes a complex absence issue with a number of underlying factors and with the annual cost of sickness absence rising and some organisations unable to measure the true underlying costs associated with absence this really can be a very costly problem and often is one area that investment in Occupational Health can provide real returns.

The dilemma facing most organisations is knowing when they should intervene, not being too pushy or pressurising, but not leaving things for too long when it often becomes more difficult to manage. Both scenarios provide problems, pressurising can often lead to more time off or a return to work too soon where this may not be advisable and by not acting quickly some issues get lost in time and are not managed correctly.

So for any organisation a robust, fair and well executed sickness absence management policy needs to be in place. This includes absence reporting and recording procedures, which must be applied equally to all staff. You cannot manage sickness absence if you do not record it therefore a mechanism to report and record should be in place and training in place for those who manage the policy and have to implement any actions such as return to work interviews which so often are put on a supervisor or managers list of duties without any training or support to ask the right questions and more importantly manage the answers.

The frequency and methods of contact between the absent employee and their employer should be agreed between all parties. The employer needs to propose regular reviews to discuss the individual’s progress, problems and their return to work plans.

If there is a concern about the length or frequency of the individual’s absences from work, there should be a trigger point for an Occupational Health referral to see if there is a possibility that there may be an underlying medical condition and be able to make recommendations regarding workplace support that may be required, it is surprising how often concerns are uncovered about outstanding workplace issues, such as problems with workplace relationships, outstanding grievances, complaints, or domestic issues which are effecting the individual’s ability to return to work etc.

Sometimes the correlation between health issues and work performance are missed or go un addressed and the Occupational Health practitioners can assist and approve an employee’s return to work and make any recommendations, just because a person has a fit note from a GP it does not always mean not fit for any work and the OH professionals will try to understand your work place and the job roles of individuals and look how to return an employee to effective attendance and performance as soon as possible and sometimes phased returns and structured returns are advised in consultation with all parties.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to look at wider issues and recommendations are made to look at stress management and policies. Often training in this area may be required or we undertake a stress survey and help manage the issues found, we also often make reference to other policies and procedures such as consulting the company’s alcohol and drug use policy, if required.

We try to help to identify any return to work barriers and underlying issues, initiating open conversations about any problems, concerns and support required. We try to help outline the expectations of all parties involved and to help ensure that the sickness management process is structured, consistent, clear and fair.

For most companies the choice is then whether to operate the OH Referral as an onsite provision or the increasing trend to remote absence management

Referrals to OH Service are usually triggered by the sickness & absence policy or a fit for work issue. Having one of our Occupational Health Advisors…

Referrals to OH Service are usually triggered by the sickness & absence policy or a fit for work issue. Any Referral can be undertaken remotely. Using…

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