Sickness Absence:
The Scale of the problem:

Sickness absence is a massive economic problem worldwide in both the public and private sectors. In the UK, according to the Federation of British Industries Report "Pulling Together: 2001 Absence and Labour Turnover Survey" (1), the gap in sickness absence performance between public and private sectors was at that time 10.2 days lost per employee against 7.2 days lost respectively. The gap in the sickness absence performance between private sectors of the economy has increased with transport and communication sectors being the highest, after the public sector, at 9.4 days lost per employee. The sectors with the lowest sickness absence rate are the professional services which include physicians.

Who Manages Sickness Absence?

In order to manage sickness absence it is important for employers to first know their levels of absence and how they compare with other companies in the same industry or business sector. Benchmarking sickness absence as a key performance indicator helps employers to identify gaps in performance between their organization and the average across a range of similar organizations. There is good evidence to suggest that an organization’s performance in the field of sickness absence management usually correlates well with a range of human resource management issues throughout the organization as a whole.

  • The involvement of OH professionals was the favored approach in dealing with longer-term absences.

This supports the earlier contention that non-medical factors may be significant in sickness absence and predominantly so in short-term rather than long-term absence.

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