Tuesday, 24 November 2009

NHS report on employee wellbeing - highlights need for better absence management

23rd November 2009 - CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) issued a press release on Monday the 23rd November entitled "CIPD welcomes NHS report on employee wellbeing, but highlights need for better absence management"

Proposals to support employee health and wellbeing in the NHS announced today are welcome, however they miss a trick by not providing any specific recommendations on how to improve absence management policy and practice. This is the view of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) on the launch of the NHS Health and Wellbeing final report.

Ben Willmott, CIPD senior public policy adviser, thinks the report contains positive recommendations that will help to support employee wellbeing and reduce absence levels in the health sector, which are the highest across the public sector at 11 days per employee per year*. He welcomes in particular the recommendation that all NHS bodies should ensure their management practices are in line with the HSE management standards on the control of work-related stress which is a major cause of absence.

Willmott says: "The report recognises that there is no point in providing employees with subsidised gym membership or advice on healthy eating and exercise if they dread coming to work because they have not received adequate training, are bullied by their manager or are drowning under their workload. The CIPD believes that people management skills must be included as a critical element of the development of all professions involved in the delivery of public services."

However, Willmott urges - together with an increased focus on improving people management skills - that all NHS bodies need to review how they manage absence if real progress on reducing employee absence levels is to be sustained across the health and wider public sector.

Willmott continues: "If high employee absence levels in the health sector are to be tackled effectively, NHS employers need to ensure their absence management policies and practices give the right balance between providing support to help employees stay in and return to work and taking consistent and firm action against employees that take advantage of organisations' occupational sick pay schemes.

"In addition all public sector employers should be able to say how much time working time is lost to absence and how much it costs. Unless you have good data on employee absence it is impossible to identify if you have a problem and how to address it."

CIPD research shows:
• Public sector employers are less likely than those in the private sector to discipline or dismiss staff for absence-related reasons than the those in the private sector
• Public sector employers are less likely than private sector employers to take account of employees' absence records as part of performance measures for individuals' appraisals
• Public sector employers provide more generous occupational health sick pay schemes than those in the private sector
• Public sector employers are less likely to restrict sick pay for unacceptable levels of absence

*CIPD 2009 Absence management survey

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