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EMPLOYERS UK employers have echoed the sentiment of recent ONS Labour Market statistics which stated that UK sick days were down by 47 million since 1993. New research from Group Risk Development (GRiD), the trade body for the group risk industry, suggests that more than a third (34%) of UK employers have seen their absence rates improve over the last 12 months in comparison with only 16% who said their absence rates have worsened.


RECEIVE BOOST A resource to help employers support staff affected by, and recovering from, cancer in their return to work is being developed by experts at the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) and Loughborough University.

In the UK approximately 90,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer each year, and estimates suggest up to 84% of people who have had cancer return to work.

Absence management is a key component of business organisation for employers as a strong majority (81%) now actively record, monitor and manage absence. Many also have measures in place to reduce absence and improve attendance with more than two in five employers (44%) using return-to-work interviews, 36% having flexible working initiatives and 26% having disciplinary procedures in place for unacceptable absence. Employers are also feeling more confident about working with fitnotes, with 40% saying they feel they can work with the advice given.

When asked about the change in absence rates, almost two thirds (63%) of employers felt that it was down to good morale in the workplace

but 44% said the fear of redundancy and anxiety about jobs may be the reason. 35% of employers felt that presenteeism could be the reason for changes in workplace absence whilst 31% cited staff shortages.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development, said: “Absence in the UK workplace is now costing 56% of employers between 1% and 5% of their overall payroll which highlights the value of keeping employees in work and in good health. It's great to see that businesses are wising up to the importance of managing absence in the workplace and the benefits this brings to their business.”

But the process of returning to work can be disrupted by physical health problems as a result of cancer and subsequent treatment, and there is evidence of an increased risk of accidents for individuals returning to work after diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Fehmidah Munir and Dr Hilary McDermott in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) at Loughborough University are working with Dr Joanne Crawford and colleagues at the IOM to provide cancer-specific guidance to help those involved in managing workplace safety and health.

Dr Munir said: “More and more people who are affected by, and recovering from cancer are returning to work during and after treatment, but there is very little health and safety guidance available to employers, and many do not understand the impact cancer and its treatment might have on employees and their ability to work.

“This project, which looks specifically at the health and safety implications for employees returning to work, will build on the Work it Out tools we’ve previously developed with Macmillan Cancer Support.”


OVERCOMES ME NVQ assessor, Julia Fielder has defied a debilitating illness to achieve a top professional qualification. Julia, who works for SHE Knows Health & Safety, has become a Chartered Member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (CIMOSH).

In the process, the health and safety assessor has successfully managed to combine her day-to-day work with


extra studying and travel while coping with myalgic encephalopathy (ME).

The 44-year-old is already an IOSH affiliate member, and has added a host of professional qualifications including an NVQ level five diploma in health and safety.

“I’m ecstatic to have gained the accreditation,” said Julia, who works a flexible, part-time 16 hours a week. “ME is a strange one – I look alright, but I can feel absolutely awful inside. My legs, head and back have a constant aching pain that makes it feel like I’m being crushed

by a bus, and I can be uncoordinated when I move.”

Linda Crossland-Clarke, Managing Director of Hull-based SHE Knows Health & Safety, said: “As a health and safety practitioner, becoming a chartered member is something that we all work towards. It provides real recognition of competence in the eyes of the law. On its own this would be a career landmark, but as Julia suffers from ME and is often wheelchair bound there is an added sense of achievement and success.”

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