first_img Comments are closed. LettersOn 4 Nov 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. This week’s lettersTime to build stronger links between employers and GPsWe are a medium-sized company employing 240 people in ourmanufacturing/engineering facility. We are a traditional unionised facilitywith long-serving employees, 95 per cent of whom are male. The average employeeage is over 40. During the past year, we have seen increases in our staff absence rates –between 5 per cent and 8 per cent a month – and absence at one of our businessunits in particular runs at up to 20 per cent in one week. We are now in talkswith the union to amend our absence management system and entitlements to our(generous) sickness pay scheme. There is certainly a feeling among the management team that sicknotes arehanded out willy-nilly. Workers generally seem to feel that once they aresigned off, they cannot be touched. We have an occupational health (OH) service that we use for healthreferrals. We try to encourage employees back to work, initially on restrictedduties, and to facilitate a return to normal work further down the line. Working in HR and having responsibility for the management systems onabsence, I do find the attitudes of employees increasingly frustrating. Forexample, we call them regularly if they are long-term sick, we have the optionto organise home visits, and we arrange the health referrals with the OH nurse.Yet, so often the response from the employee is hostile, with an attitude of‘how dare you contact me when I am off sick’. I certainly believe the sicknote system needs to be worked on. It isrefreshing to hear that the Government is considering taking action. I agree that it would be beneficial for employers to have OH issuesicknotes.However, the cost burden for small companies having to provide OH facilitiesmay not be feasible. This is a scheme that should be means tested, or it shouldbe left to each employer to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment.One thing that should be considered, though, is what happens if an employee ismis-diagnosed by OH, or is not signed off and then has an accident at work dueto illness? Will providing an in-house OH service mean a greater burden oncompanies, given the claims culture and heavy insurance premiums? We are a local employer and I feel the local GPs see us as a big, bad one.We will shortly be taking the initiative and inviting local GPs to our premisesfor a site visit. Hopefully, we can help to enhance their knowledge of what we actually do.This may in turn encourage GPs to discuss with those patients who want to besigned off with long-term sickness, any other work they may be able to perform.It may also help to build stronger links between employer, GPs and OH. Details supplied OH route could prove costly for small firms I write with reference to your research and story on GPs issuing sicknotes(28 October). The idea of introducing occupational health (OH) or specialistadvisers to assess sick employees and write sicknotes might relieve the burdenof responsibility from GPs. This option may well be the solution for larger organisations, with big HRdepartments and the funds to recruit or buy in OH. However, for many smallerorganisations, which are not heavily resourced in HR, such a move would bedifficult. HR does have a part to play in addressing some of the sicknote/ absenceissues. We can introduce good, practical guidelines and work with line managersto monitor frequent absences before they become a costly, long-term problem.But HR is not equipped to assess genuine illness. Details supplied Only GPs will benefit from a new system I have just read the news in your latest issue (28 October). It would seemthe only people who will benefit from occupational health (OH) specialiststaking over the issuing of sicknotes are the doctors who will have a decreasedworkload. However, if OH cannot provide a diagnosis or dispense medicines, then anindividual may have to visit the doctor anyway. For the genuinely sick, thiswill not aid recovery. Additionally, the financial and logistical burden to an employer having tobuy in the specialist services – particularly those with a field-basedworkforce – could be prohibitive. Small businesses will suffer most from such asystem – again. Irene Filler Office manager, Anglewest Government must cure sicknote crisis Thank goodness someone is planning to do something about this creepingparalysis. The existing sicknote system, coupled with current employmentlegislation, is ensuring that malingering employees have the upper hand, ascompanies become more impotent to resolve the problems of frequent absenteeism.Government must resolve this problem, and quickly. Management is spendingtoo much time tip-toeing around absenteeism problems because the system isrotten and does not allow management to manage without the very real threat oflegal procedures being initiated by an employee or their trade union. In my organisation, 8 per cent of employees account for 88 per cent of thefrequent absenteeism (using the Bradford Factor). Keep up the pressure onGovernment, as it is its [European] legislation that has resulted in ourimpotency and the worrying escalation of the professional malingerer. Recently, an employee asked for unpaid leave to visit Australia. The companyrefused the request. The employee went off sick (produced a doctor’s note for abad back). The employee was not at home when a company employee visited them.When the company phoned enquiring about his health, a woman at the house saidhe had gone to visit his sister in Manchester. When another employee phonedagain, saying it was just a friend enquiring about his health, the womanreplied: “I thought it was his work chasing him again. He’s gone toAustralia and won’t be back until next week.” Upon returning to work, the employee was seen by management and disciplined.But still he claimed he was sick, had a doctor’s note, and denied going toAustralia. Paul F Jordan Operations and HR director, Hypnos OH better equipped to deal with illness The current sicknote system is clearly unsatisfactory. GPs are left in adifficult position if individuals claim to be unable to work. I have seen cases where bad backs are the apparent cause of absences, yetthe organisation is prepared to offer sedentary duties to facilitate a returnto work. This works well for the genuinely sick. However, malingers often choose notto tell their GP that light duties are on offer by the employer. Instead, theymay tell their GP that they perform heavy lifting in their role. Quite rightly,given such a tale, the GP will sign them off. This kind of partial disclosure by the malingerer is hard to police underthe current sicknote/absence system. It can take several weeks for an employerto contact a GP directly, at a cost of £50 to £75. An in-house occupational health (OH) adviser, or someone with a moredetailed understanding of the employment relationship, will have far moreinsight into an illness or injury and the feasibility of an employee returningto work. May your proposed changes to the system come quickly. Scott Dalrymple HR manager of operations, LOGiCOM Special report was a real wake-up call I am delighted to see that Personnel Today is backing the campaign againststress in such a clear, focused way, as seen in your special edition devoted tothe subject (21 October). It is very important for publications to back this campaign and I am delightedto see that you are bringing current thinking, awareness and knowledge to therelevant professionals in industry. The research figures by Personnel Today and the HSE are staggering, and itis only through proactive initiatives such as yours that HR professionals willbe armed with the tools to manage the difficult job at hand. Your excellentreporting has provided a much-needed wake-up call to UK plc, and no longer canindustry say ‘they didn’t know what was going on or what to do’. You have provided the information, and now we have to see what is put intopractice. No longer can industry sit back on their haunches or bury their headsin the sand. Carole Spiers CEO, Carole Spiers Group People need training to help tackle stress I read with interest your article on the key triggers of workplace stress(News and features, 21 October 2003). As stress takes its toll on theworkplace, HR has an obligation to tackle it and to put strong preventionmethods in place. Most people feel stressed when they are placed in a situation that theydon’t have the right skills to successfully deal with. They need to be trainedin skills ranging from stress management through to more challenging areas,such as communicating with difficult people and defusing aggressive workplacesituations. It is often these skills that are missing the most from professionals in theworkplace and yet, ironically, it is these skills that are required forbusiness success. Laura Kelly International marketing manager, Thomson NETg Using brain-friendly learning is the key I was intrigued by your report that the failure to use both sides of thebrain is a big part of the reason why training departments struggle to producebetter results (21 October). In my experience, many training programmes miss out on a big opportunitybecause the process used does not gain the commitment of the learners, eitherto learn anything, or to apply their new skills back at work. When organisations use brain-friendly learning, they invariably find staffmake a stronger commitment not only to learning new skills but also in applyingthem back in the workplace. The emotional connection to learning ensures a strong commitment. Once thathas been made, people look for the opportunity to apply what they have learned.Bill Esterson Director, Leaps & Bounds last_img read more