IMPPACT 08
   
Improving Morale, Productivity, Performance through Action & Cost-effective Techniques 2008
 

Conclusions & Recommendations from the
IMPPACT 2008 Questionnaire

Conclusions
From the evidence that has been gathered as a result of the survey, it is clear that there are a number of organisations within Kent who take a more proactive stance on not only supporting employees to stay fit and healthy through the use of good health promotion strategies, but by also providing robust occupational health support to help management drive early medical intervention and practical support to help, encourage and support employees back into the workplace.

However there are some very strong messages that a number of organisations do not have the strategies in place to effectively manage sickness absence. Although some of them are open to some of the ideas and strategies that other organisations have adopted, they may be a little reticent to go ahead and implement these approaches.

If this process is undertaken correctly it can serve to not only drive a positive reduction in sickness absence, but positioned correctly with employees can help raise the perception of the organisation as a caring employer.
Clearly, those organisations that fall within the 54% are to a large extent leaving the judgment call in terms of how to effectively manage the medical related aspects of absences with either their HR or management professionals. The questions they must therefore ask is whether they are confident that their HR and management professionals are sufficiently equipped to act in the best interests for not only the employee but also the organisation.

Recommendations
By utilising occupational health support employers can adopt a two-pronged approach. Pre-employment health assessments for example, whereby employers can focus on potential new starters that have a poor historic absence record, and make a robust decision as to whether they may have a high absence rate in the future. In addition, employers can also ensure early medical intervention and support via occupational health to support those employees that are either currently absent or not performing to their usual standards whilst at work through to working with HR and management professionals to ensure they understand and fully utilise the benefits and support of a good occupational health partner.

Typically the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) recommends adopting a best practice approach by completing a return to work interview either on day one or at least within five working days of the employee returning to work. This is particularly important to ensure managers focus on the absence history of the individual, paying particular attention to those with frequent spells of short term absence for example, but equally ensuring that they spend time with those individuals returning from long-term absence and helping to rehabilitate them back into the workplace. However, whilst many other organisations may also claim to complete return to work interviews, they either do not, or cannot, actively monitor compliance amongst managers, and as a result may not be utilising them in a way that will proactively help reduce absence. There are a number of good ‘day one’ absence management organisations that can provide the online tools to enable managers to complete these and therefore allow HR to actively monitor compliance.

Equally, as part of the return to work interview process, managers could benefit greatly by referring those employees into occupational health whereby further clinical support and guidance is required. For example, employees that have experienced frequent short-term spells of absence with a mixture of medical reasons within each spell may benefit from a clinical assessment by an occupational health professional. They will be able to establish if there is perhaps a true single underlying medical reason causing their absence, or indeed whether it is a more straightforward case of adopting their internal disciplinary process.
It is therefore crucial that HR and management professionals recognise that early intervention by occupational health is crucial to not only support those staff that are currently absent, but to also support and recognise the early signs (such as reduced productivity) amongst those staff that, whilst still present, may be feeling the burden as a result of absent colleagues.

Whilst we have not in this survey explored further what specific strategies those organisations that answered yes have adopted, it is positive that they recognise that there is clearly a value in adopting some form of approach.

Organisations that proactively provide support such as specialist rehabilitation will have a more positive impact not only physically, but also from a morale point of view. The cost benefits achieved as a result of this early intervention may in many cases outweigh the cost of such support, resulting in a better than cost neutral position whilst promoting the perception of a caring and supporting employer

Those organisations that operate a robust sickness absence policy will commonly adopt a set of triggers such as ’long term absence – 20 working days’. Employees that hit these triggers are then referred promptly into occupational health as a management referral. This approach supports the manager and the employee, and as a result, the employee benefits from receiving the necessary support such as rehabilitation; whilst the manager benefits not only from robust support, but also the cost savings achieved as a result of an earlier return to work, plus the perception of being a caring and supportive employer.

If you are experiencing difficulties in managing workforce absence please contact:
Authors:
Jennifer Bowden - Chartered FCIPD –
j_bowden@tiscali.co.uk
Anna Daniels – Cert Ed, RSA - anna.daniels1@btinternet.com
Dr Manuel Fernandes - BSc, MBBS, MRCGP, DCH, DRCOG, DRRP, AFOM, MIOSH. – manuelfern@yahoo.co.uk

These three organisations cover a broad spectrum of employee support, with Daniels Corporate Fitness Limited working in the area of preventative health support (www.annadanielsfitness.co.uk) Premier Occupational Healthcare Limited focusing on the occupational health aspects of the employment relationship (www.premierohc.co.uk) and ILC Services operating in the area of good employment practice and organisational effectiveness and personal performance (www.individuallearning.co.uk).

March 2008

If you would like to receive information on a conference considering sickness absence and creating an environment where staff are encouraged and supported in staying fit, improving morale and increasing productivity please let us know