Employee Benefits Awards 2012: Most effective absence management and rehabilitation strategy

Serco, Serco Absence Process Review, entered by Jelf Employee Benefits

This strategy features an online system that records and notifies managers of an employee’s absence on day one.

Depending on the triggers for absence, a relevant professional, for example the insurer’s vocational rehabilitation consultant, or an in-house occupational health manager, gets in touch with the absent employee.

The system is fully automated: the absence is identified to payroll, and line managers then respond. If there is no response after two chases, the case is immediately referred to head office. There is also a 10-week ‘sweep’ of all absences to ensure no one is missed, with final claim decisions being recorded by the insurer.

Ashleigh Witcher, director of group risk, said: “We have got fantastic technology and the process is precise and consistent. We are able to support our employees and make sure decisions are made on time so that employees don’t go over the 26 weeks of the income protection scheme. Everything is very timely, consistent and fair, and supports our employees.”

The system is particularly useful for off-site workers and lower-paid employees, whose absence was sometimes difficult to monitor. It has enabled absence to be managed using real-time information across more than 200 sites and 30,000 employees.

As a result, Serco has reduced the cost of absence, helped staff get back to work more quickly and increased productivity.

It communicated the new system in a number of ways, including staff workshops, roadshows and HR forums, and presentations on the features and benefits of the scheme. A policy handbook was created and information put on the intranet and in the in-house magazine.

One judge said managing absence so effectively must have been a difficult challenge considering Serco’s diverse workforce.


Browne Jacobson
This entrant’s strategy, supplemented by a number of carefully chosen benefits, was designed to support the health and wellbeing of staff while maximising productivity and reducing disruption caused by absence. There was no drive to reduce costs or hit sickness targets because the company did not regard absence as an organisational issue. Instead, its aim was to ensure consistent monitoring of absence levels to maximise operational efficiency while focusing on employees as individuals.

ICAP, entered by Bluefin
This entrant analysed different causes of absence before implementing its strategy, which saw the introduction of early intervention measures and a framework for dealing with individual cases of absence from the outset. As part of the strategy, an occupational health service was introduced to provide a triage system for employees and to intervene where staff are still at work but need support to be able to function at an optimum level.

KPMG, Get Better Together at Managing Absence
After conducting a review of its approach to sickness absence, KPMG designed a strategy to reduce the cost of short-term absence, ensure the accurate recording of absence, improve the management of long-term absence and speed up employees’ return to work. Measures adopted include a revised sickness absence policy and processes to minimise risk to the firm.

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Schaeffler (UK), Absence Management and Rehabilitation Scheme
This entrant’s strategy aims to achieve a number of goals, including reducing employee sickness absence levels and the costs of absence, as well as its associated management. The strategy includes an early notification procedure for phoning in sick, and a continued procedure for ongoing sickness, return-to-work interviews, an occupational health service and occupational health doctor.

Read more about the Employee Benefits Awards 2012