HR managers give vote of no confidence to government scheme

More than four-fifths of UK HR managers have given a vote of no confidence to the government's proposed health and work assessment and advisory service (HWAAS), research has revealed.

The scheme, due to be introduced next year, aims to provide advice and support to employers dealing with employees suffering from long-term sickness absence.

But a study conducted by PMI Health Group discovered that 86 per cent are not confident that the service will fulfil their occupational health requirements. Furthermore, 81 per cent of companies already provide staff and management with access to an occupational health service.

"The  health and work assessment and advisory service could be a step in the right direction," said Mike Blake, Director, PMI Health Group. "However, given a majority of employers already provide access to an OH service, the suggestion is they have adequate processes in place.

"The government service will only provide advice to employers when staff have been absent for more than four weeks, so will not help them in monitoring the ongoing health of their staff and developing preventative methods to reduce absence."

Thirty-three per cent of HR managers claim to consult an occupational physician in every case of long-term absence, with a further 53 per cent doing so occasionally. In cases of short-term absence, 12 per cent always refer employees to an occupational physician and 59 per cent do so occasionally.

"Although advice from the government service could help in returning staff to work, it may struggle to provide the kind of in-depth insight that comes from a knowledge of each specific case, a relationship with HR, the working environment and an understanding of an employee's health background," added Mike. "This is perhaps why a majority of HRs look to refer staff to an occupational physician in cases of both long and short-term absence."

When seeking advice from a GP in cases of employee absence, only nine per cent of HRs regularly find the advice given to be useful.

"Advice and information from an employee's GP is only useful in building a picture of the reasons for absence," added Mike.

"By having permanent access to an occupational physician an employer can develop an understanding of the underlying factors affecting absence and make adjustments to help staff before ill health even becomes an issue."