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Civil Service

3 ways to bring down sickness absence

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The latest Civil Service sickness absence figures to Q1 2014 have been released. They show that the levels of sickness absence is 7.3 average working days lost (AWDL) per staff year this quarter, once again at its lowest reported figure since 1999.

Below 3 departments share how they have helped reduce the AWDL in their teams.

Focusing on long term sickness: Valuation Office Agency (VOA)

The VOA has reduced long term sickness absence by just under 0.5 days in the past year. This is due to a new culture promoted in the VOA with HR engaging with managers to build capability through manager surgeries, workshops and Workplace Wellness.

As a result based on the latest figures for the period June 2013 to May 2014, overall sick AWDL down almost 2 full days from 6.98 to 5.15.

Improving mental health awareness: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

A staff-led informal group, Break the Stigma (BTS), was set up in January 2014 to provide information and raise awareness of all mental health issues. The BTS group has helped encourage positive change by:

  • providing support to Defra staff dealing directly or indirectly with mental health issues including, depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder, etc
  • raising awareness and challenging stereotypes
  • encouraging a culture in which people are comfortable in being as open about mental health issues at work as they are with any other illness.

Through these activities BTS has already helped many staff in dealing with mental health issues. BTS continues to actively inform and support staff and promote wider diversity and wellbeing initiatives which collectively help staff work together productively and creatively, with mutual understanding and empathy, in happy and effective teams.

Improving staff wellbeing: Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

To reduce the level of AWDL DWP introduced a network of more than 2,000 volunteer Wellbeing Champions (across 800 UK sites). Their role is to continuously deliver wellbeing events to meet local need, and to motivate colleagues to make healthy lifestyle choices by promoting health and wellbeing at their site.

Much has been accomplished by forging successful partnerships with many health-promoting organisations in their area, including the British Heart Foundation, Change4Life, NHS Choices, Mind, and Drinkaware.

DWP’s innovative Physio Advice Line service offers immediate advice and treatment to employees affected by musculoskeletal injury and their new Wellbeing Intranet website and a digital online community promote the sharing of Wellbeing ideas, resources, and successes.

The result of these initiatives, and others, has been to reduce average sickness absence per employee, with a record low reported in June 2014 of 6.8 working days.

Work performance has improved with:

  • 31% of Champions reporting reduced sickness absence since promoting new Wellbeing initiatives
  • 62% of Wellbeing Champions report improvements in engagement and morale

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  1. Comment by Sick and tired posted on

    The ONLY reason sick abscence has dropped is because people are coming to work when they are sick.


    Well why not ask the staff to find out? That way you may get a proper picture of what is actually going on in the Civil Sevice.

    My guess is the recent spate of written warnings handed out like candy (regardless of reasons for abscences) over the last year or so creating a culture of fear.

    • Replies to Sick and tired>

      Comment by lyn posted on

      Agree with everything you've said,culture of fear of being sick

    • Replies to Sick and tired>

      Comment by D R G posted on

      If staff do nor attend when they are sick then the period of sickness and number of days soon add up to the point where one is warned in writing. However, I am currently absent as a direct result of the direct stress on me caused by my manager's manager in Southampton (a purported sufferer of the same type of illness he has played upon to cause my distress. Same person handed me a 6 day old letter from another staff member.
      Poor staff management and no understanding of the human psyche and me now back to square one and being deterred from taking my own life.