Jude Read details new government initiative
What is it?
Following a study of long term absence and how long it takes to get employees back to work and the cost involved, the Government have introduced the ‘Fit for Work’ service which is aimed at reducing long term absence.
We know managing absence is important for 2 reasons:
- Cost, time and disruption issues it can cause
- For employees to know they are supported and treated fairly
The new FFW service provides employers, employees and GP’s access to health advice and information about general sickness absence and absence related to the workplace. This stage of the new service is already live and can be accessed via telephone or the website.
The next stage which is expected in May 2015 is free occupational health assessments for employees upon a referral from the manager or GP after a period of absence of 4 weeks. Employees will be assigned a case manager who will be able to identify what kind of issues are affecting a return to work, it may be a health issue, a personal issue or an issue within the workplace preventing a return to work. Ultimately though, employees will be supported back to work with additional support upon returning to work in the early stages.
In an ideal world this would help support employees and employers alike, reduce absence costs and associated issues that come with absence management but as we know it’s never so simple. An employee has to provide explicit consent, an employer has to engage in the process, the case manager has to have sufficient knowledge of the facts to provide an appropriate return to work plan and ultimately the time involved will affect everyone required in the process.
On the plus side though, employers are able to claim £500 tax exemption per employee on any medical treatment recommended to help the employee back to work.
Barriers to a Return to Work
An employee may have called in sick when their child has been unwell, or because they have family/personal problems or as we know, it may be that employee is just ‘throwing a sickie’ because they can’t be bothered today. Whatever the reason, returning to work after a period of absence may be difficult for some employees due to a psychological barrier which they perceive to be in place, this could include issues such as:
- Concern that colleagues will be discussing why they have been absent
- Fear of their manager treating them less favourably upon return
- Worry about getting back into a routine
- Concluding it may be easier to stay at home and not have to answer all the questions when returning
- Not feeing part of the team any more
- Their confidence has reduced and concerns of being able to actually perform their role upon return
It’s important that an employer is aware of this and a robust absence management procedure will help to reassure employees and break these barriers down. If you are one of the employers who has realised being pro-active makes you more efficient, benefits you financially, helps retain your key employees, reduces turnover, provides a return on investment and offers you a competitive edge in the long run, you may wish to enhance it by offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
Rutland House Counselling & Psychotherapy offer this service and typically cover the following areas:
- Anger management
- Work performance
- Work-related stress
- Personality clashes in the work place
- Stress management
- Personal issues including bereavement and relationship difficulties
- Depression and anxiety
- Sleeping problems
- Illness and disability
- Harassment and bullying at work
Packages can include: assessment, final report and flexible appointment times are available to suit both employer and employee.
Prevention is Better than Cure
We’re good at putting off today what can be tomorrow and then the next day comes and something else prevents us from completing what we had aimed to, unfortunately our good intentions don’t always happen in practice but this is an area (absence management) it is in an employer’s best interest to have a robust absence management procedure in place.
Managers must be trained on it to be able to demonstrate consistency and fairness to employees in addition to having an awareness of any discrimination issues. Employers with a procedure in place should be looking to update and incorporate the new FFW reference into it if they have not already done so.
For any Leicestershire based SME, I highly recommend you contact Andrew Harris at Workforce Wellbeing. This Company is a not for profit business and provides a fully funded preventative scheme in relation to employees well-being and absence, check out the website and make that call as you could be a business that qualifies. http://workforcewellbeing.org.uk
I have managed many sickness absence cases over the years and there’s no doubt having a robust absence policy & procedure in place contributes to an efficient and timely resolution. If you would like to benefit from being pro-active in managing absence the please call me to discuss how I can be of assistance including providing an absence management policy & procedure to delivering a training session for your managers