A new report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research looked at the cost of long-term absence for a typical business of more than 500 employees. It estimates the cost of absences over six months to be £4.17 billion to private sector businesses in the UK. Mental health conditions account for a large proportion of this, with 1 in 4 people are estimated as experiencing mental health problems at some time in their life, causing over 70 million working days lost per year, and a cost of £1.17 billion per year.
The research showed that businesses who step in early to provide support at an early stage of a health problem, rather than waiting until it gets more serious, reduced the duration and length of the sickness absence. Actively using early intervention services such as vocational rehabilitation can reduce the average length of absence by 17% for all conditions and 18% in mental health conditions. This equates to turning an absence of seven months into six.
Vocational rehabilitation is using the workplace to aid recovery. In terms of mental health conditions, a gradual reintroduction to the workplace at a pace that is manageable for the employee, and with possibly adjusted duties, is likely to improve their general recovery as well as confidence. It is a win-win situation. The employee feels valued and is able to contribute to the workplace during their recovery, and the employer will have some output and productivity from the employee who would otherwise not be at work.
Occupational health advisors are well placed to identify vocational rehabilitation plans. They will have a good knowledge of the health condition, understand the health as well as psychosocial aspects and or/barriers involved in helping an employee back to work, and understands the demands of the business and what adjustments are possible and can be accommodated. Occupational health assessments should be conducted as early in the process as possible, ideally no longer than one month after the initial absence, to ensure that the appropriate support can be identified and put into place as soon as the employee is well enough to be able to come back to work in some capacity. For further advice on helping your employees back to work and reducing length of absences at your workplace, please call us now.