Managing absence through early intervention and prevention

In our new blog post, Steve Thomson, Health & Protection specialist, looks at the costs of staff absence and the benefits of early intervention.

Absence in the workplace can be a challenge for employers, particularly at this time of a year – a recent study* found that employees typically take 53% more sick leave in January.

Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics in October 2018 show that over 131 million days were lost to sickness absence in 2017, with absence costing  businesses over £4 billion each year. Therefore, for a typical business with more than 500 employees that is over £770,000.

The Government’s ‘Good Work Plan’ published last month states that employee wellbeing, safety and security is one of the five key areas that employers must focus on and says that “employers can create a positive and supportive workplace culture themselves”.

Early Intervention Services (EIS) have become more commonplace over the last few years as part of Group Income Protection policies and these can have a really positive impact if used effectively.

Adopting a proactive and supportive approach can help you really make progress towards improving employee wellbeing and reducing workplace absence. Statistically** an effective EIS can reduce absence by 17%, which to any business is significant and surely warrants more attention and ultimately investment.


For me there are three key services that when used have brilliant results:

1) Employee Assistance Programme (EAP’s) offer a 24/7 telephone helpline for individuals to use for a wide variety of concerns. From legal matters to financial worries or relationship issues, a specialist consultant is on hand to talk things through, whenever needed. This can extend to face-to-face counselling where required.

2) Rehabilitation Services where skilled individuals at the insurer, or a third party provider, are on hand to provide specialist advice and feedback direct to the employee and/ or  employer. They will then focus on helping staff not only during absence, but also as employees  attempt to get back to work.

Rehabilitation consultants, with the consent of the individual, work with the absent employee to understand the challenges they face in the first instance. Then, using their experience, they guide the individual through their journey back to work.

When the time comes, they will even work with the employer to ensure a safe and effective return to work programme is implemented, so that all the hard work building up to that point isn’t undone.

3) A Healthcare Cash Plan is one of those products that does a little a bit of everything – whether its access to dental or optical treatment, a requirement for some physiotherapy or discounted gym memberships. A Healthcare Cash Plan is a great low cost option.

Simply put they offer cashback (which can be processed using a mobile phone app) against regular everyday health claims, without the need to go and see your GP first (like with a full private healthcare policy). These plans can save time on individuals accessing treatment, or even encourage individuals to get the treatment that without the insurance they wouldn’t have accessed – which could prevent longer term issues in itself.

January is often the time for people to make new resolutions and focus on better habits and it’s an ideal time to look at adopting new practices within the workplace too. Staff absence can affect a businesses finances and impact on team morale too. By planning ahead and implementing an employee benefits programme within your organisation, you’ll help your staff feel supported and be able to reduce and manage staff absence effectively.


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*Source: HR software provider CharlieHR

**According to a study from the Centre for Ergonomics and Business Research (Cebr)