News update – Law firm introduces anti-stress system

Law firm Shoosmiths has introduced a sickness absence system to tackle stress and to avoid the trend towards incentive-linked sickness schemes.

HR director Louise Hadland said that the programme, which allows staff to phone a qualified nurse when ill, is being piloted on 400 employees to cut absence rates.

“We are an organisation which deals with a pressured area of work. Stress at work is an issue and we hope employees might be more honest when talking to an independent third party,” said Hadland.

She added: “The nurses ensure that staff are able to cope with their illness and manage their symptoms.” The scheme was introduced as an alternative to an incentive based sickness programme, similar to those run by organisations such as Tesco and the Royal Mail.

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“I do not agree with incentive schemes. Our sickness pay is there to enable people to become ill without worrying about losing their pay or position. How can I look someone in the eye who’s just had chemotherapy and say ‘by the way, you can no longer access our bonus scheme’? It’s appalling that people pile the pressure on people who are ill,” said Hadland.

The new system, provided by Active Healthcare Partners, monitors absence and offers medical advice to sick staff. Absence calls will be rerouted to a team of nurses who ask questions and suggest treatment. However, calls are confidential and managers will not be told the reason for absence unless employees give permission. The firm has also recently launched a number of stress management workshops for all staff as part of its ongoing attempts to help cut stress related absence.