Sick days: what the NHS can learn from the private sector

A government-commissioned report has found NHS staff are often away from work because of stress and the pressure of their jobs.

Just over ten million sick days are taken in the NHS – more than anywhere else in the public sector. That equates to an average of 10.7 days for each employee; in the private sector, the average is 6.4 days.

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says: "There is no doubt that a drive to improve health awareness and employee wellbeing across the NHS is a positive step to reducing absence levels and increasing productivity."

However, he notes: "There is no point in providing employees with subsidised gym membership or advice on healthy eating and exercise if they dread coming to work because they have received inadequate training, they are bullied by their manager or they are drowning under their workload. Employees who are under stress at work because of excessive workloads or long hours are also more likely to eat less healthily, take less exercise and smoke and drink more.

The disparity between the number of average sick days taken by NHS employees compared with those taken by workers in the public sector suggests corporate Britain may be able to teach the national health service a thing or to about sick leave management.

On Twitter, @livemorelife has these suggestions on ways to reduce sick days: "Get them to call in personally when they’re sick, see them as soon as they return & have trigger points 4 [sic] disciplinary action." 

How do you manage sick leave? Got any suggestions for the NHS? Add your comments below.Related articlesSick pay: don’t be ill-advisedMullins moves to protect workers from swine fluSwine flu concerns for small businesses

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