Strong health and safety policies and a keen eye on absence levels, both long- and short-term, can reduce both premium costs and the expenses associated with sickness.

A demonstrable, robust health and safety risk management system has benefits for your middle-market company beyond simply protecting employees. It also helps ensure that your employers’ liability premium is competitive, as well as reducing uninsured costs such as lost time, staff turnover and retraining. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that for every £1 recovered through insurance, the total unrecovered loss exceeds £11.

Of course, you have to meet the safety management requirements laid down by legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and any regulations specifc to your industry sector. But that is just the minimum expected of every company. As well as protecting employees’ safety with your health and safety programme, you might also consider absence management. The cost benefits can be considerable and should far outweigh your investment.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), effective absence management involves finding a balance between helping employees with health problems stay in – and return to – work, and taking consistent and firm action against employees who try to take advantage of occupational sick pay schemes.

Measuring and managing absence

A key element in managing absence effectively is accurate measurement and monitoring. Measures can be used as trigger points, indicating when you need to investigate absence. Monitoring absence allows you to identify trends and to explore underlying causes.

In the latest CIPD absence survey, fewer than half of employers say they monitor the cost of absence, just under half of organisations have set a target for reducing absence, and just over one-third benchmark themselves against other employers. According to the CIPD, effective interventions in managing both short-term and long-term absence include restricting sick pay and enforcing return-to-work interviews.

In addition, using trigger mechanisms to review attendance, involving trained line managers to manage and review attendance, bringing in occupational health professionals, and disciplinary procedures for unacceptable absence levels can be used to deal with short-term absence. Long-term absence can be tackled using occupational health involvement and proactive measures to support staff health and wellbeing, changes to work patterns or environment and introducing rehabilitation programmes.