Case study: East Sussex County Council rates third-party sickness scheme

East Sussex County Council used a third-party absence management system as part of a wider strategy to reduce its sickness absence rates, from 9.5 days in 2005 to 6.9 days in 2010.

The system, provided by FirstCare, was introduced with the specific aim of tackling short-term absence.
Leatham Green, assistant director, personnel and training in the council’s governance and community services department, says: “We had previously relied on manual recording of absence data, which tended to be several weeks out of date and incomplete.”

In October 2009, through an initiative called Invest to Save, Green secured council funding for a pilot project involving an outsourced absence management service, focusing on two areas: adult social care and children’s services.

By the end of 2010, sickness rates had fallen by an average of 11%, and the scheme was deemed popular by management and staff.

“The scheme initially met with a negative response, particularly from trade unions, but they are now fully supportive,” says Green. “In the current climate of budget cuts, it is one service we are being asked not to stop.

The cost benefits are clear and there is added value in that managers are engaging more effectively with the workforce, while staff feel valued by an employer which cares about their health and wellbeing.”

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