Employee Benefits Live 2010: KPMG rolls out new absence management policy

KPMG is to roll out a new absence management policy and guidance document on 1 October, following a comprehensive review into sickness absence at the professional services firm.

Speaking in the health and wellbeing session Helping line managers effectively deal with wellbeing issues at Employee Benefits Live on 29 September, Fiona Humm, wellbeing manager at KPMG, said: “The big piece that was missing was around sickness absence. We had very little data on why employees were absent. One of our drivers was to try to get better data on the health issues employees were facing.”

She added that in the last 12 months, sickness absence cost KPMG £7 million in salary costs alone. Reduced billable hours to clients due to absence further increased this cost.

The firm also wanted to introduce a policy and guidance that was easier to administer and more transparent for employees and managers.

Its new ‘Get better together’ policy is aimed at encouraging all employees to take responsibility for managing absence. This includes guidelines around an employee’s return to work to encourage managers to hold return-to-work interviews with employees, visible triggers for referral to occupational health, and changing employees’ timesheet reporting to include instances of absence and the reason for these. It also includes a focus on early intervention.

Humm explained this is intended to help KPMG understand the potential length of an absence, support the individual and make any necessary adjustments within the business to cope during their absence, such as reallocating work.

KPMG also looked at remuneration for employees who embark on a phased return to work, offering financial incentives for them to return.

The new policy will be communicated using a video. “For such a large organisation, we have real challenges in how we communicate [due to a dispersed workforce],” said Humm. “We really felt the video would engage people. Even though one of the business drivers was to reduce costs, we need to engage people.”

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Following the launch of the policy, KPMG will be looking to gain immediate feedback to understand its impact and whether it is effective. It will then carry out a quarterly review.

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