EXCLUSIVE: Two-fifths have a strategy in place to reduce sickness absence

EXCLUSIVE: Although the proportion of organisations that have an absence reduction strategy in place (39%) has not shifted since last year, employers do continue to rapidly adapt and change their approach to sickness absence, according to research by Employee Benefits.

The Employee Benefits/Health Shield Healthcare research 2019 surveyed 202 HR decision makers and influencers. It found that, while 2018 saw early intervention by line managers take second place on the list of absence strategies, and its popularity has not changed this year, this has been outstripped by other methods and now stands in joint third. Joining line manager intervention in this position is health education, rising an impressive 13 percentage points, from 50% in 2018 to 63% this year.

Meanwhile, providing access to care at work or through health benefits and implementing work-life balance strategies have both risen by more than 10 percentage points, with 73% of employers citing their use of each strategy. Remaining solid at the top of the list this year, though, is the use of return-to-work interviews (75%).

Among the other absence reduction approaches that have seen an increase this year is rehabilitation for the long-term sick, which has grown from 41% in 2018 to 58%.

This may demonstrate a reaction to the ageing workforce, as this brings with it an increased need to address longer-term ailments and serious health issues.

Meanwhile, although it saw a significant rise of 21 percentage points between 2017 and 2018, the use of disciplinary procedures to reduce sickness absence has decreased once more, settling at 35% this year.

Following the introduction of this question in the 2018 research cycle, the most popular methods of helping those members of staff experiencing long-term health issues have not changed.

Employers continue to make use of employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and flexible-working policies, predominantly. However, while flexible working has only risen in popularity as a method of helping those with long-term health issues by five percentage points, EAPs have far outstripped this, with 87% of employers providing them, compared to 77% in 2018.