Keeping people in work and helping people return to work is very important for the manufacturing sector. It means boosting productivity by getting people back into work as early as is possible, as well as fostering workplace cultures and environments which proactively manage individuals’ health conditions so that all can benefit from lower sickness absence outcomes. Our 2015 national survey looks at EEF member experiences of sickness absence, the Fit Note, the cost of sick pay as well as the approaches adopted to manage the leading causes of long-term sickness absence.
The key messages arising from our survey are:
Five years on – the government’s fit note isn’t working:
- Just over two-fifths (43%) of employers disagree that it has enabled those absent from work to return to work earlier. In addition, just under a third (29%) of employers say that it has made no difference in enabling earlier returns to work.
- There are still insufficient GP and medical professionals trained (approx. 12% of GPs; negligible numbers of hospital doctors) in the use of the fit note.
- GPs and medical professionals are still issuing low numbers of ‘may be fit for work’ fit notes. Just over a quarter (26%) of companies did not receive any.
- GPs and medical professionals are not working closely with employers to help people return to work earlier, although just under a quarter (23%) of employers provided GPs with information about work adjustments they can provide.
Increasing concern about growing long-term sickness levels:
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), NHS waiting lists, recovering from treatments and mental ill health top the list of long-term sickness absence issues.
- One-third (33%) of employers rely exclusively on the NHS to manage long-term employee sickness absence arising from medical investigations, tests and recovery from surgery.
- Almost a third (30%) of survey respondents indicate that they do not have support systems in place to help employees with mental-health-related long-term sickness absence.
Managing long-term sickness absence:
Fewer than a fifth (18%) of companies measure the economic cost of sickness absence.
- The average sick pay cost per employee is £374. This equates to a total cost of £1 billion for the manufacturing sector.
- The average spend per employee on wellbeing, health promotion and lifestyle advice is £91, but employers do not measure its impact on sickness absence.
- 3% of companies measure the return on investment and 5% of companies measure the impact on wellbeing or sickness of the health and wellbeing benefits and services they offer.
- Almost four fifths (79%) of employers would be incentivised to pay for employee workplace adjustments, rehabilitation or medical treatment through the introduction of health tax credits or allowable business expenses.