Critical Role of Human Resource Management in the Cost, Quality and Productivity Equation
Edited by Peter Spurgeon, Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 8: A better model of managing sickness absence
There is a very large literature on the problem created by absence at work, but, as Walker and Bamford (2011) note, the voluminous literature also contains many gaps. Most notably they identify a lack of attention to the wider organisational context (Dunn and Wilkinson 2002), to cultural aspects of absenteeism (Steel et al. 1995) and a relative weakness in assessing the effectiveness of proposed solutions (Spurgeon 2002). It is safe to conclude that sickness absence is a significant cost to the economy even if actual figures vary in accord with the method and approach to recording data. Willmott (2007) reports that less than half of the organisations (surveyed) actually cost absence, making any figure quoted subject to a fair degree of extrapolation. Perhaps the most important weakness to be found in the area is the fragmentation of approaches to managing absence, with organisations becoming very active when absenteeism is high but letting the topic drift when the actual rate drops (Carrington 2007). It is unlikely in such circumstances that a coherent evidence based approach will emerge. The focus of this chapter is to consider, with respect to the health service in particular, how an improved model of sickness management can contribute to a reduction in costs from absenteeism and improved efficiency in the running of health organisations.
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