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regular comment for managers on workplace health issues

Role of the Occupational Health Department in Absence Management and Rehabilitation

Another of the NI Update lectures

 Dr Leslie Hawkins

 Absence management

Facts & figures: CIPD survey July 2005

  • Analysis based on 1110 organisations & over 2.9m people
  • Average cost is £588 per employee per year
  • Most important cause is minor illness; 61% – 5 days
  • Manual workers – back pain
  • Non-manual workers – stress

Absence management policies

  • 87% organisations have absence management policies
  • Return to work interviews are regarded as the most effective method of managing short term absence
  • Involving OH is seen as most effective tool for managing long term absence

What is rehabilitation?

  • An approach whereby those who have a health condition, injury or disability are helped to access, maintain or return to employment – DW&P 2003
  • Is a process that, for the client, should develop better life quality, vigour, knowledge, capacity for coping with disease and recognition of opportunities and limitations – K E Anderson in Practical Ethics in OH 2004
  • Occupational rehabilitation is the process of assisting employees back into the workplace following injury or illness whether  it is work related or not – Hughes 2004

Why Rehabilitation?

  • Financial
    • Reduces costs
    • Reduces claims
  • Moral
    • Return someone to where they want to be, usually to where they were before the accident or illness
  • Legal
    • Management of Health & Safety at work 1999 Reg 6 Health Surveillance
  • HSC’s strategy 2010 & beyond – to work with stakeholders to strengthen the role of H & S to getting people back to work through much greater emphasis on rehabilitation

Government statistics

  • 1995 – 27,000 people forced to give up work
  • Each week – 3000 people move from SSP to Incapacity Benefit (IB)
  • 90% on IB believe they will return to work
  • 5:1 odds against returning to work

Research & Pilot studies

  • Job retention & vocational rehabilitation: the development of a conceptual framework. (James & Cunningham 03: HSE 106)
  • The Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilot DW&P 02-04
  • Developing a framework for vocational rehabilitation. A discussion paper DW&P May 04

Case study

  • British Telecom v Pelling (May 2004)
  • YET
  • PersonnelToday 07.09.04
  • BT boasts 8000 home-workers, 70% of their 90K workforce working flexibly

Principles of Rehabilitation

  • Policy
  • Commitment of stakeholders
  • Eligibility criteria & support
  • Budget & resources
  • Commitment to confidentiality
  • Accountability
  • Dispute strategy
  • Early contact
  • Referral to OH
  • Developing an agreed rehabilitation plan
  • Support with therapeutic interventions
  • Flexible return to work – recuperative duties
  • Work adaptations or adjustments

Those involved

  • Employee
  • Line Manager
  • OH
  • Therapeutic services e.g. physiotherapists, ergonomists, counsellors

OH role

  • Referral process
  • Referral circumstances
  • Serious &/or long term medical conditions
  • Stress related problems
  • MSDs
  • Work related illness or injury
  • Frequent periods of absence
  •  
  • Assessment of the individual
  • Identifying health problem
  • Obtaining further medical information
  • Length of absence or likely return to work
  • Residual disability
  • ? DDA applies
  • ? Restricted duties long or short term
  • Ongoing treatment e.g. physiotherapy, medication
  • Review of refer?
  • Assessment of the workplace
  • Risk assessment or “job analysis”
  • Focus on capabilities and not disabilities
  • Travel to and from work
  • Access & egress in emergencies

Advising on “recuperative duties”

  • Points to consider
  • Reasons for length of absence
  • Acute or chronic condition
  • GP/specialist opinion
  • Job analysis
  • “Psychological” fitness
  • Employee attitude
  • Travel arrangements or home working
  • Company policy or insurers conditions for payments

Tolley”s recommendations for reduced hours

  • >16 hours per week and >4 hours per day
  • Agreed gradual increase over 6-8 weeks
  • Rehab treatment outside these working hours
  • OH review progress

Prevention is always better than cure, however there will always be the need for rehabilitating the sick and injured employee

References & bibliography

  • Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2004) Employee absence 2004: a survey of management policy and practice http://www.cipd.co.uk
  • Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2004) Absence Management fact sheet http://www.cipd.co.uk
  • Walters M (2005) One stop guide: Absence Management http://www.personneltoday.com
  • HSE (2004) Managing absence and return to work: an employers and managers guide HSG249
  • Waddell G, Burton A K (2004) Concepts of Rehabilitation for the management of common health problems, London: TSO
  • Hughes V et al (2004) Tolleys Guide to Employee Rehabilitation, Lexis Nexis UK
  • Better Routes to Redress http://www.brtf.gov.uk
  • P James et al (2003) Job retention and vocational rehabilitation: The Development and evaluation of a conceptual framework, HSE Contract Research Report 106
  • Department for Work and Pensions (2004) Building Capacity for Work: a UK Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation http://www.dwp.gov.uk
  • Access to work, information for employers Ref No:DS4JP July 2004

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