Nearly a third of organisations fail to measure long-term sickness absence


Although just over half (56%) of organisations record their levels of long-term sickness absence, which refers to leave of 20 working days or more, almost a third (29%) do not, according to research by manufacturers’ organisation EEF.

The EEF health and work survey 2018, published in association with insurance provider Howden, polled 165 employers in May 2018. It also revealed that just under a third (29%) of organisations identify work-related sickness absence levels, but that almost two-fifths (37%) do not. Mean sickness absence attributed to work is 4%.

The most common cause of long-term sickness absence for just under two-fifths (37%) of employers is a result of employees waiting for medical investigations or recovering from surgery.

Approximately four-fifths (81%) of organisations have access to occupational health (OH) services and the most common utilised OH services for just over three-quarters (76%) are task fitness assessments. Audiometry is the most common type of health surveillance for the majority (82%) of organisations.

Almost all organisations are implementing measures to help reintegrate employees back into work, the foremost being phased returns to work (89%), reduced or different hours (84%) and time off for medical appointments (70%).

Terry Woolmer (pictured), head of health and safety and policy at EEF, said: “It has long been recognised that a healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Investment in the wellbeing of employees by both the employer and government makes sense not just for good business practice but also the benefits to wider society from reduced benefits and pressure on a stretched NHS.

“The focus on occupational health needs to regain momentum, however, especially given the upward trend of a number of causes of long-term absence. This should involve practical short-term measures such as a replacement for the ‘Fit for Work’ service, as well as a long-term focus on a wider strategy for employee health that goes way beyond just managing absence.”