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Absenteeism and Presenteeism – A Plan of Action

Absenteeism and Presenteeism – A Plan of Action

Whether the proposed ‘well-notes’ become the norm or not, amongst the confusion one thing is clear– that both employees and employers have never been more concerned with the issue of employee health. And with the first ever review into the health of the working population revealing that ill health is costing Britain a staggering £100 billion every year, which is more than the annual budget of the NHS, employers have more incentive than ever before to promote a healthier working environment and ethos.

Detective Constable Howard Casey, Deputy Secretary of the South Wales Police, took this message on board when he recommended his organisation offer employees access to HSF health plan.

“In the current financial climate there’s only a certain amount of cash available. Everybody has different restraints on their finances, and every individual needs different things. A health cash plan gives people the option to choose which is best for them,” he says.

“What HSF health plan were offering compared to what you have to pay out seemed extremely good. We looked at other schemes, but HSF health plan impressed us the most. On top of that is the fact that they’re a charity, and it’s non-profit-making. The testimonials are excellent and they have a proven track record.

Health cash plans bridge the gap between difficult to access public health services and relatively expensive private medical insurance. For a comparatively small monthly premium, contributors are reimbursed with a percentage of the cost of routine health expenses, such as a medical specialist, dentist or optician appointments or treatment. With the security of knowing these unforeseen costs are taken care of, employees are able to schedule regular health checks at a time to suit them and their colleagues, making any absence planned and accountable. Regular checks also have the benefit of picking up and monitoring minor health conditions, and with the financial cover and peace of mind that cash plans provide, employees can seek treatment at an earlier stage before the condition causes long-term absence.

When employees suffer chronic illness like back pain, the difficulty of accessing regular medical services, such as physiotherapy, can allow these conditions to worsen, again causing unnecessary and costly long-term absence. As the Health Secretary has suggested, conditions such as back pain can benefit from appropriate levels of work, and with the support of health practitioners employees can have the confidence to return to duties – a positive outcome for both employer and employee alike. However, lack of access can mean employees are forced to wait for a GP referral, but health cash plans allow them to arrange and receive reimbursement for practitioner appointments, such as physiotherapy, osteopathy or chiropody, amongst others. In addition, the schemes from HSF health plan also cover spouses and dependent children, at no extra expense.

Stress is often implicated in employee absence, with 13.8 million days of absence per year attributable to workplace stress.[1] The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development last year reported that one in five people experience a high level of stress at work, at a cost of £9.6billion to British business[2]. Some health cash plans offer a stress counselling advice line as part of every scheme, helping employees recognise and reduce workplace stress. Selected plans also offer a GP advice line, which means employees are able to access health advice easily and quickly.

After Detective Constable Howard Casey’s recommendation, HSF health plan was implemented by the South Wales Police in late 2007 and the employee benefit has been positively received.

“All the feedback we’ve had has been very positive. People who’ve made claims have purchased spectacles, visited the dentist or taken advantage of seeing a specialist at short notice. We started by offering this scheme just to police officers, but now we’re widening it out to all support staff.”

Companies can either entirely fund a health cash plan on behalf of employees as an workplace benefit, provide part funding or simply make participation voluntary. Health cash plans offer a beneficial rate to corporate contributors, whether self or employer funded. Providing a health cash plan does more for workplace health than simply providing access – this kind of employee benefit sends a clear message to the workforce that positive health is at the very heart of the company. By funding contributions, at least in part, employers are encouraging their workforce to also invest, and become interested in their health. Along with other healthy-living initiatives this can have a marked effect on absenteeism.

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[2] CIPD research 2007


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