Employee Benefits Awards 2011: Most effective sickness absence management strategy


Cisco, i-Benefit@Cisco entered by
Thomsons Online Benefits

As winner of this category, Cisco demonstrated the implementation of a sickness absence management scheme that reduced the high number of staff on long-term sick leave and tackled the underlying causes of ill-health.

With a high-performing culture and long working hours, Cisco was affected by high stress levels, sleep problems, the high cost of absenteeism and presenteeism. As part of its wider employee benefits strategy, the sickness absence management scheme took a comprehensive approach and encompassed occupational health, the employee
assistance programme (EAP), manager training and online health assessments.

The scheme was designed to be, and has successfully been, rolled out in other countries; Cisco has implemented the scheme in Ireland, with different currency and legislation. Implementation of the strategy involved intense project management because the organisation had just three months in which to complete the project.

Cisco gave its employees the opportunity to discuss concerns with providers at benefits fairs, and used targeted communications to ensure people understood the breadth of the benefits on offer.

Communications included the creation of Ben, a character who communicated with employees instead of HR. The benefits fair proved successful, with 99% of respondents saying they were interested in attending future workshops.

As a result of the strategy, Cisco has seen a reduction of 40% in the number of people taking long-term sick leave (13 to 26 weeks’ absence) in the first year since its launch, from about 50 to 30 a year. The judges praised the company for its considered approach to sickness absence in such an aggressive timeline. They also noted the success of the Ben character that was brought in to engage staff and bring the strategy to life.


Browne Jacobson, Approach to Wellbeing
This strategy aims to reduce unnecessary sickness and avoid presenteeism. A weekly review by the legal firm’s operational HR team examines each case individually. The strategy is supported by benefits such as PMI, sick pay, an employee assistance programme and flexible working.

Carlsberg UK, Your Carlsberg entered by Buck Consultants
A key part of this strategy addresses the issue of back strain in this brewing and distribution firm. A questionnaire identified musculoskeletal problems for workers in its depots, and their causes. The firm has seen the cost of musculoskeletal absence fall to £829,000 a year, a fall of £271,000 from 2007.

East Sussex County Council, Attendance Management with FirstCare Day One Absence Management
entered by FirstCare
This council introduced a new strategy to reduce absence, boost productivity and adopt a proactive approach to staff wellbeing. Absence has reduced by 14% since 2005, and its sick pay bill has fallen by £1.8 million. In 2010, 6.9 working days were lost per employee, compared with 9.5 in 2002.

Fasset, New Absence Policy
This facilities management firm brought in a managing stress policy and promoted health and wellbeing benefits. It saw the cost of absence drop in 2010 to £51,790 from £82,345 in 2009.

University of Lincoln, AMS Project
The strategy included a new system to replace paper reporting, and an interactive wellbeing site. It saw a reduction in average days of absence from 8.29 in 2009 to 6.54 in 2010.

Read more about the Award winners