NICE issues guidance to help manage long-term absence

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) has issued guidance to help employers manage long-term sickness absence in the workplace.

The guidance, which is part of efforts to get more employees who are off sick back to work, recommends a series of measures employers can take to deal with sickness absence and incapacity.

Employers have been advised to undertake initial enquiries with employees experiencing long-term sickness absence or recurring short episodes of absence, particularly those with musculoskeletal disorders or mental health problems. If necessary employers should then arrange for a more detailed assessment to be undertaken with the employee. The assessment, coordinated by trained case workers, would support the delivery of any planned health, occupational or rehabilitation intervention or services, and any return-to-work plan.

The guidance also states that employees should be consulted and are in agreement with all planned health interventions and return-to-work plans, as well as the provision of any modifications, designed to cater for their condition, that aremade in the workplace. 

In addition, it recommends that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and other organisations that commission services for those who are unemployed and claiming incapacity benefit or employment support allowance, should co-ordinate support to help claimants return to paid or unpaid work.

Professor Mike Kelly, public health excellence centre director at Nice said: “Long-term sickness absence and incapacity for work is a huge issue. It is currently estimated that 175 million working days are lost in Britain due to sickness absence each year and the associated cost is reaching £100 billion – greater than the annual budget for the National Health Service.

“This new guidance aims to help employers and employees work together to ensure that when someone is absent from work due to sickness, the right support is available as early as possible, so [staff] can return to work as soon as they are able.”