Absence management: how health benefits providers help

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Date: Apr. 4, 2014
From: Occupational Health(Issue 428)
Publisher: DVV Media International Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,891 words
Lexile Measure: 1430L

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Employers can do a great deal to ensure their employees remain fit, healthy and able to work. Director of Jelf Employee Benefits Chris Ford looks at how benefits providers can help.A sickness absence policy should encompass the three Ps - preventive, proactive and provision. The most helpful absence policies are those implemented for all staff from day one of joining. The element that ismost important from day one is "preventive".There are a lot of tools available to employers to help with prevention, including health-awareness days, "bring-an-apple-to-work" days, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and developing an absence policy. External health benefits providers, including insurance companies and occupational health service providers, will help with some of these, while others can be instigated by the employer.Employers themselves can do a lot to help. For instance, specialist training is readily available to help line managers identify signs of stress-related absence, one of the most common reasons for absence. 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.Communication is keyThe point to emphasise here is communication. When staff feel that their employer cares if they are 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 and to tell them how.Key points Absence management starts on day one of attendance. Companies need to look after their staff and tell them how they are being looked after. Find out why staff are absent and understand what support is available. Have a centrally managed process to manage absence and use all support available. Assist staff back to work, including after their first day of return. Look after staff who are still at work while colleagues are on sickness absence leave. Ensure the sickness absence policy is communicated.One of the aspects of a successful sickness absence policy that many employers ignore is being proactive. Employers that are proactive from day one of an absence put themselves in the best position for quicker returns to work. When staff have to talk to their line manager on their first day of absence, the manager has an opportunity to find out the reason for the absence and measures can be put in place.Another reason it is important to record the first day of absence is that it is then possible to schedule measures at other key dates. For instance, after 28 days there might be an automatic referral to the company’s OH service, irrespective of the reason for the absence. There could be a review of all absences every three months, a chance to look at...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A366709084