Survey highlights significant workplace absence barriers

Published:  09 June, 2007

A major survey published by EEF, the manufacturers' organization, has found that despite continuing investment in occupational health by employers, significant barriers still need to be overcome in order to reduce absence further.

According to EEF"s annual survey of over 600 companies, one of the largest of its kind in the UK, almost 40% of companies believe GPs and employee resistance to rehabilitation, along with the limited capacity of the NHS to provide faster access to treatment are preventing further reductions in sickness absence.

Commenting on the findings, EEF chief medical adviser, Professor Sayeed Khan, said:

"Those manufacturers who invest in training their staff are continuing to reap the benefits of a pro-active approach to absence management. However, despite this investment significant barriers remain and all parties need to make a step change to promote a culture of rehabilitation in the workplace. We know that the Royal College of GPs is looking at training GPs in work and health, but the issue of NHS waiting lists remains to be addressed.

The survey also showed the number of days lost to sickness showed a slight improvement down to 3% (6.7 days per employee) from 3.1% (7.1 days per employee) in 2005. However, compared to the figures for 2004 (3.55% and 8.08 days per employee), there is a clear downward trend.

EEF believes that this continued reduction in sickness absence is due to a more pro-active approach to absence management and investment by companies in training for line managers. Some 88% of companies now have a written policy on absence management, while 34% of managers received training in managing long term sickness absence, up from 28% in 2005.

The survey showed the positive benefits of such investment with 40% of companies who trained their managers reporting a decrease in all types of sickness absence. This compared to 26% where no absence management training was carried out.

40% of companies believe GPs and employee resistance to rehabilitation are preventing further reductions in sickness absence

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