Employee Health & Wellbeing

In the UK, 7.8 days per employee are lost on average due to employee sickness absence, a recent CIPD report on health and well-being at work has found.

This equates to 3.4% of working time lost per year and it comes with a huge cost to you, as an employer.

Within this article we will look at the headlines from the report. And we will help you consider what you can be doing to help prevent sickness absence becoming a problem within your workplace. We will also provide some shrewd tips on how to support your employees and how employees can support themselves.

Health & Wellbeing

What are you doing to proactively prevent sickness absence in your workplace? If it’s nothing, it’s probably time you start to do so because if it isn’t costing your business now it certainly will do in the future. Current sickness absence rates are the highest they have been for over a decade; and the signs aren’t great for the future.

The top two reasons for employee sickness absence are:

  • Mental ill health
  • Musculoskeletal injuries

Everyone is aware of the current pressures upon the NHS with waiting lists at an all-time high for operations and access to mental health support. The Royal College of Psychiatrists said its research found 43% of adults with mental illness say the long waits for treatment have led to their mental health getting worse. Almost a quarter (23%) have to wait more than 12 weeks to start treatment.

In addition, we have the resurgence of Covid-19 and the arrival of the annual winter cold and flu doing the rounds. This will only increase employee absence and pressures on the NHS and workplaces over the winter months.

Striking the balance

Let’s be honest, if you haven’t pulled a ‘sicky’ when you really could have worked, I bet you’ll know someone who has. And some make a habit of doing so. To go one step further, there are people who are aware of their 12-month sick leave entitlement and use it for extra time off when they run out of holidays.

This is why it is important to have fit-for-purpose absence management processes, policies, and procedures to deal with the small percentage of employees who will play the system. Employees are less likely to pull a ‘sicky’ if they know there is a process to follow. Speaking to their line manager on the phone to discuss their reasons for absence, returning to work to a face-to-face return-to-work interview and a procedure to measure short absences will all help to reduce ungenuine sickness.

However, it is also important to support employees when they are genuinely ill and cannot work. Make sure they don’t feel pressured to work or return to work too early when they aren’t well enough to do so. Having a robust and transparent process will ensure you are able to strike that balance of protecting the business whilst supporting your employees.

Economic cost

According to the gov.uk website, in the UK the total economic cost of sickness absence, lost productivity through worklessness, informal care giving and health related productivity losses is estimated to be over £100bn annually. Think about how sickness affects your workplace or how it could, the impact and disruption it has upon colleagues and customers, the cost of sick pay, occupational health, and temporary replacements.

5 shrewd recommendations for employers

Prevention is better than cure, so what can you do to support your employees whilst protecting your business?

  1. Robust sickness absence policies & procedures – Ensure your business has a policy which details the process of sickness absence, reporting procedure and how sickness is measured.
  2. Employee support – Provide employees with EAPs and health plans to provide access to independent services like GP appointments, physiotherapy, chiropractors, or counselling – ensuring quicker access to health services and avoiding NHS waiting lists. Provide support to help employees overcome their health issues at work, consider any reasonable adjustments or amends to duties to support your employee’s manage any health issues.
  3. Health & Wellbeing strategy – A standalone policy saved in a folder that nobody reads will not provide any benefit to your business or your people. Develop a holistic approach to implementing a health and wellbeing strategy to ensure it is embedded throughout your business and in everything you do
  4. Provide training – Provide employees with health and safety training and risk assessments around display screen equipment (DSE) and manual handling in an attempt to avoid musculoskeletal injuries. Ensure your line managers are equipped to feel comfortable to have conversations with their team around mental and physical health and can sign post to other services.
  5. Create an open environment and flexibility – Don’t be afraid to talk to your employees about subjects which still have stigma attached to them such as mental health conditions, stress, anxiety, and menopause. Ensure your employee’s feel comfortable talking about how they are feeling and if they’re having an off day, think about what support and flexibility you can give them, can they work from home? Working at home performing at 70% is better than 0%! But only when they’re well enough to work!

5 shrewd top tips for employees

  1. Understand what helps your mental health – Take time out, go outdoors, read a book, meditate, watch TV, meet up with family and friends, have a relaxing bath, aim to do something every day that helps you switch off from the world.
  2. Get moving – The links between good physical health and the benefits on your mental health are widely reported so introduce regular exercise into your weekly routine.
  3. Get a good night’s kip – Good sleep improves your brain performance, mood, and health setting you up for a productive day ahead.
  4. Screen breaks – Taking a break from the screen will help you bring balance to your digital and real-world lives. Soaking up real-time instead of screen time will ease anxiety, increase happiness, reduce multitasking, reduce those technology cravings, and allow you to connect more with the people in your life.
  5. Good workstation setup – This is crucial to making sure you have good posture both in the office and at home. Think about the time you spend working at a desk, imagine the issues you are going to develop over the years of your working life if you haven’t got the correct setup.

If you would like to talk to shrewd about any of the topics covered in this article; from implementing absence management processes to creating a health and wellbeing strategy for your business contact us here.

"In the UK the total economic cost of sickness absence, lost productivity through worklessness, informal care giving and health related productivity losses is estimated to be over £100bn annually..."