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A fifth of employers still do not record sickness absence

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More than a fifth of employers did not have a system in place for recording sickness absence, according to findings from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP's Health and Wellbeing at Work Report found large employers reported a higher incidence of sickness absence than small and medium employers.

Nearly half of employers (48%) paid sick pay to some or all of their staff. Large employers (250+ employees) were most likely to provide this: 88% compared with 71% of medium employers (50-249 employees) and 47% of small employers (two-49 employees).

Two-thirds of employers had not taken any actions to help employees with health problems stay in work or return to work. Amongst the third who had taken actions, the most common were: allowing employees to work different or reduced hours; and, meetings to discuss extra help employees might need to stay in or return to work and these were most likely to be large organisations.

There was strong agreement: that employers have a responsibility to encourage their employees to be physically and mentally healthy; and that there is a link between work and employees' health and well-being.

However, only a slim majority agreed that the financial benefits of investing in employee health and well-being outweighed the costs and half thought their employees would not want their employers to intervene in terms of their physical and mental health.

Eugene Farrell, key accounts manager at AXA PPP, said:"The penny seems to be dropping that work is good for you and it was heartening to see that the most working age people concurred that work is good for physical (84%) and for mental (83%) health.

"And, whilst it’s encouraging that the overwhelming majority of employers (88%) appreciate that they have a responsibility to encourage employees to be physically and mentally healthy, it is discouraging that only 57%) were convinced that investing in this is worth the candle – testament to the continuing challenge to service providers to make a more compelling business case for their services.

"And it was especially disappointing that only 17 per cent of respondents said that they provide their employees stress management support or advice. This was chiefly an issue for smaller and medium sized firms but over one third of larger sized employers indicated that weren’t doing anything to address this – an astonishing finding given the continuing prevalence of stress, anxiety and depression as a major cause of long term sickness absence in Britain.

"You really have to question the role of HR in these arguably remiss organisations for allowing them to get away with paying people not to work – especially when early intervention and effective treatment through the likes of talking therapies are so readily available.

"A key part of the problem is lack of investment in line manager training to enable them to mange employees’ psychological wellbeing effectively, with only one third of employers saying they provide line mangers with stress management training or support"