After 2 years of absence, you are more likely to die than return to work

Why do absence management experts go on and on about early intervention? The data makes for shocking reading. Read on and find out some of the key reasons why you really need to intervene early:

Long-Term Absence

When an absence becomes long-term (4 weeks or longer), the chances of the employee’s return to work diminish rapidly. 1 in 5 will not return to work after just 4 weeks of absence (Health at Work 2011). As the absence continues, the barriers to return become higher. One of the factors is a ‘fear of the unknown’. This is when returning to the workplace has become such a scary prospect that employees are intimidated by the idea and it is prolonging the absence. In many cases a long-term absence spirals into a long-term incapacity. Each year over 300,000 people in the UK fall out of work onto health-related state benefits (Health at Work 2011). In relative terms, this means that you’re almost as likely to fall onto benefits (1 in 200 chance) as you are to die in an accident (1 in 260 chance – Source: Office of National Statistics).

After being off work for 6 months, only 1 in 5 return to work (NICE 2009). This means that their chances of being diagnosed with cancer (1 in 3 – Source: Cancer Research UK) are higher than the possibility of regaining employment. After 2 years, the employee is more likely to die or retire than return to work (NICE 2009).

Early Intervention is Key

This should explain why the impetus is on early intervention. The odds are increasingly against the employer the longer a situation is left un-managed. The chances of having a positive impact and the likelihood of achieving a return to work are better the earlier something is done to support recovery. Employers may think that there is little to be done to change the fact that someone has a medical condition. You can’t magically cure the employee and therefore their absence is inevitable.

In many cases, however, the medical condition is not the main cause to be tackled. In a speech last year, Dame Carol Black shared results from a Fit for Work Scheme Pilot in Leicester: in 78% of cases the patient’s main problem was not a medical one. The main interventions were mediation, personal support and help finding new employment. This shows that often the employer can have a real impact.

If you’re looking for ways of becoming a more proactive employer, get in touch with us for some advice and great tools for absence management!