Manufacturing employers face barriers to reducing sickness absence

Manufacturing organisations still face barriers in reducing sickness absence levels despite continuing to invest in occupational health.

Manufacturer organisation EEF’s 2006 Sickness absence survey of more than 600 companies, found that almost 40% said they 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.

The survey also showed the number of sick days taken fell very slightly to to 3% (6.7 days per employee) from 3.1% (7.1 days per employee) in 2005. The figures in 2004 were 3.55% (8.08 days per employee) which shows that absence is reducing, albeit slowly

This continued reduction in sickness absence could be related to the 88% of companies that now have a written policy on absence management in place and that 34% of managers who received training in managing long-term sickness absence, which is up from 28% in 2005.

Of those companies that trained their managers, 40% reported a decrease in all types of sickness absence. Where no absence management training was carried out, just 26% reported a decrease in all types of sickness absence.

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Professor Sayeed Khan, EEF Chief Medical Adviser, said: “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.”