NICE to know
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has today released advice for employers on how to support long-term sick employees back into work.
The advice includes guidance for anyone managing staff who are required to deal with long term absences. The advice includes tips on getting involved early: the longer someone is absent, the harder it is for them to return to work, as Dr Richard Preece, a freelance consultant in occupational medicine and member of the PDG explains: “Being out of work can have a serious impact on your health, and the longer you are off sick, the harder it is to return to work. This guidance is about ensuring people who are away from work get access to the right kind of support at an early stage enabling them to return to work sooner.”
Professor Mike Kelly, Public Health Excellence Centre Director, NICE, explains the reasoning behind issuing the guidelines: “Long-term sickness absence and incapacity for work is a huge issue. It is currently estimated that 175 million working days are lost in Britain due to sickness absence each year and the associated cost is reaching £100 billion – greater than the annual budget for the NHS.”
He continues: “This new guidance from NICE aims to help employers and employees work together to ensure that when someone is absent from work due to sickness, the right support is available as early as possible, so they can return to work as soon as they are able.”
The NICE guidelines encourage employers to find someone impartial who is appropriately trained to undertake initial enquiries into recurrent short-term sickness or long-term absence due to illness, especially if it is related to mental health or a musculoskeletal problem. If further investigation is merited, specialists should be charged with undertaking more detailed assessments. Any occupational or rehabilitation services or back to work plans should be jointly agreed with the employee concerned.
Professor David Croisdale-Appleby, of the Wolfson Research Institute and the School of Medicine and Health, University of Durham (who also chairs the Programme Development Group) says: “The guidance is excellent news for both employees and employers. It is in both parties’ interest that employees get back to work as soon as possible after illness. We are recommending some very simple and straightforward measures that even the smallest employer can implement. These include keeping in regular positive contact with the staff member when they are off sick, thereby ensuring that they don’t feel isolated.”
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