The most recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development CIPD 2015 is based on replies from 578 organisations across the UK in reference to 1.5 million employees, with the estimated cost of absence to employers being around £550 per employee per year. The average level of employee absence has increased slightly compared with 2014 from 6.6 to 6.9 days per employee, although it remains lower than in 2013 (7.6 days). There is considerable variation in absence levels across and within sectors. Average absence has increased most in the public sector (where it is now 50% higher than in the private sector), while it has decreased slightly in manufacturing and production. The level of absence also tends to be higher in larger organisations, regardless of sector. On average, manual workers have 1.5 more days’ absence per year than non-manual workers. Minor illness remains the most common cause of short-term absence, followed by musculoskeletal injuries, back pain and stress. The most common causes of long-term absence are acute medical conditions, stress, musculoskeletal injuries, mental ill health and back pain.

30% of employers report non-genuine absence as a top cause of short-term absence for manual workers and 23% for non-manual workers. 2015 has seen an increase in the proportion of organisations including non-genuine absence among their top causes of long-term absence for non-manual workers (14%, up from 3% in 2014). The exception to this is within the public sector, where fewer include this among their top causes of absence. The public sector is more likely than the private to rank stress, mental ill-health and musculoskeletal injuries among their top five causes of short and long-term absence.

As in previous years, occupational health involvement is most commonly ranked among organisations’ most effective methods for managing long-term absence. Organisations that have a target for reducing absence, or who use absence as a key performance indicator (KPI) are considerably more proactive in their approach to absence management. They are more likely to use methods to monitor and discourage absence, as well as promote health and facilitate rehabilitation. Organisations that achieved their absence targets were significantly more likely to manage absence through promoting health and well-being than those that did not achieve their targets.

How can we help

At OHNI we are committed to help you manage this expensive issue. We can see your staff at our premises in Belfast, the employer’s premises or in the employee’s own home - whichever is most convenient for you and your staff.

A comprehensive and timely report is provided after each consultation. The report covers the employee’s functional capacity, their fitness for work, addresses any questions posed in the referral form and highlights any other issues the OH specialist believes may be helpful in managing the case.

We can also arrange counselling or referral to an Employee Assistance Service (EAS) for further help and support.

We advise on appropriate reasonable adjustments and rehabilitation programmes to facilitate earlier return to work, redeployment or ill health retirement, if applicable.

Where appropriate, we advise on the occupational health aspects of Health & Safety and Disability Discrimination legislation.

We can help your human resources (HR) department identify different types of sickness absence to help you manage this difficult and expensive issue.

An effective absence management approach is one which is coupled with a focus on health promotion and employee well-being. Proactively supporting well-being can prevent people from going off sick, or deal with an issue before it becomes a real problem.

Sickness Absence and rehabilitation back to workSickness Absence and rehabilitation back to work

Telephone: 07702 746529


Occupational Health Northern Ireland

9 Hillview Road County Antrim Northern Ireland, UK BT147BT