‘Ensure all companies have access to Occupational Health services’, say manufacturing companies.

The results of a survey by manufacturers’ organisation EEF and Howdens have revealed that the two main reasons for absence in the sector was time spent waiting for medical investigations or recovering from surgery, and stress.

On the back of its comprehensive research, the EEF is asking the government to ensure that its review of occupational health provision in the UK includes the ability of all companies to access OH provision.

Whilst the survey showed that nearly all manufacturing companies who responded said that they had processes for integrating people back into work, and that they made use of occupational health services that were directly related to the jobs done by their workforce, there are still things that could be done better.

Understanding long-term absence

‘Long-term absence’ is usually defined as absence from work that lasts more than four consecutive working weeks. It’s something that companies are advised to measure and monitor, as it can have a significant effect on productivity, and businesses need to understand the reasons for this type of absence so it can be addressed and any risks mitigated. In the EEF/Howden’s survey, nearly one third of respondents said they did not know the levels of long-term absence in their company.

However, many companies did have processes in place to help people back into work after long-term absence, including phased returns and reduced or more compatible hours. Only two thirds of respondents allowed time off for medical appointments.

The survey also showed that, whilst many companies had some absence and risk control measures in place, they were not recording the impact of those measures. This means that those companies can’t really tell if their processes are working or not, and so are unable to change or refine them to help them manage long-term absence due either to physical or mental issues.

What’s the answer?

The survey report concludes that there is work to be done both by manufacturing companies themselves and by government, where possible. The EEF and Howdens believe that a more over-arching approach to providing occupational health services to companies across the board will mean a fitter, healthier working population, a reduction in long-term absence and a consequent benefit to the economy.

And businesses? Well, they need to have robust and useful processes in place to train, assess and support the people who work for them, and to manage absence and return to work when it happens. They also need to monitor sickness, absence and recovery so that they have a clear picture of how these factors affect the business and what can be changed or improved to make things better for employees and for the bottom line.

If you’d like help, advice or practical support with sickness and absence management, contact us today.

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