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  • Health and Safety Executive

    Managing sickness absence in the police service A review of current practices

    Prepared by the Institute for Employment Studies for the Health and Safety Executive and the Home Office 2007

    RR582 Research Report

  • Health and Safety Executive

    Managing sickness absence in the police service A review of current practices

    Sue Hayday BA Andrea Broughton BA, MA Clare Tyers BSc, MSc Institute for Employment Studies Mantell Building University of Sussex Campus Brighton BN1 9RF

    The Home Office and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are working together to reduce the number of working days lost to ill health and/or injury in the police forces of England and Wales. They commissioned this review of absence policies and management in seven police forces to inform the process.

    This review is intended to be used by the Home Office and HSE to develop measures to improve current practice in line with the Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on Health, Safety and Productivity aims and the drive to improve public sector efficiency. It presents an in-depth analysis of absence management in the case study forces and identifies the clear themes and issues which are vital for the effective management of absence.

    This report and the work it describes were jointly funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Home Office. Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE or Home Office views or their policies.

    HSE Books

  • © Crown copyright 2007

    First published 2007

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be

    reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in

    any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical,

    photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior

    written permission of the copyright owner.

    Applications for reproduction should be made in writing to:

    Licensing Division, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office,

    St Clements House, 2-16 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BQ

    or by e-mail to hmsolicensing@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk

    Acknowledgements

    IES is indebted to the seven police forces who participated in this review against a background of demanding operational requirements. It would not have been possible without each force’s willingness and determination to organise the activities required. We would also like to express our gratitude to all the individual officers and police staff who contributed by taking part in interviews and focus groups.

    The authors also wish to thank the IES project team of Linda Barber, Ann Denvir, Jonny Gifford, Nick Jagger, Nii Djan Tackey and Sally Wilson for their commitment and enthusiasm throughout the project. Our thanks are also due to Dan Lucy for his analysis of the focus group surveys.

    ii

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY v

    1 INTRODUCTION 1

    2 METHODOLOGY 3

    2.1 Selection of case studies 3

    2.2 Data Collection and analysis 4

    2.3 Review of absence policies 4

    2.4 Interviews and focus groups 5

    2.5 Analysis and reporting 8

    2.6 Summary 9

    3 PROFILE OF THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE REVIEW 11

    3.1 Profile of interviewees 11

    3.2 Profile of those returned from long-term sickness 12

    3.3 Profile of those away with long-term sickness 12

    3.4 Profile of focus group participants 12

    3.5 Summary 16

    4 CURRENT CONSENSUS ON GOOD PRACTICE IN ABSENCE

    MANAGEMENT 17

    4.1 Organisational absence strategy and culture 17

    4.2 Roles in managing absence 21

    4.3 Summary 26

    5 REVIEW OF POLICE FORCES’ ABSENCE POLICIES 27

    5.1 Format of policy documents 27

    5.2 Policy document good practice 27

    5.3 The approach of the policies to absence levels 28

    5.4 Detailed analysis of absence policies 29

    5.5 General views of the absence policies 31

    5.6 Summary 32

    6 MONITORING ABSENCE 35

    6.1 Reporting of individual absence 35

    6.2 How time lost is reported 36

    6.3 recording reasons for absence 37

    6.4 Data quality 39

    6.5 Reporting of absence data 40

    6.6 Use of absence data 42

    6.7 Summary 43

    7 REASONS FOR ABSENCE 45

    7.1 Views on reasons for absence 45

    7.2 Health reasons for absence 48

    7.3 Non-health reasons for absence 49

    7.4 Role of work factors in absence 50

    7.5 Summary 54

    iii

  • 8 MANAGEMENT OF ABSENCE 55

    8.2 Procedures used to manage absence 59

    8.3 Factors affecting the management of absence 70

    8.4 Views on procedures used 74

    8.5 Summary 77

    9 PREVENTION OF ABSENCE AND WELL-BEING AT WORK

    INITIATIVES 81

    9.2 Accident prevention 83

    9.3 Health at work initiatives 83

    9.4 Views on well-being initiatives and health promotion from staff and

    managers 88

    9.5 Summary 89

    10 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 93

    10.1 Absence policies 93

    10.2 Monitoring absence 93

    10.3 Causes of absence 94

    10.4 Managment of absence 94

    10.5 Well-being initiatives 96

    10.6 Summary 96

    APPENDIX 1 BIBLIOGRAPHY 97

    APPENDIX 2 SUMMARY OF MEASURES 99

    APPENDIX 3 INTERVIEW GUIDES 103

    APPENDIX 4 DISCUSSION GUIDES 109

    APPENDIX 5 TELEPHONE INTERVIEW GUIDE 121

    APPENDIX 6 FOCUS GROUP QUESTIONAIRES 124

    APPENDIX 7 MANAGERS’ VIEWS ON ABSENCE 131

    APPENDIX 8 NON-MANAGERS’ VIEWS ON ABSENCE 135

    APPENDIX 9 MANAGER AND NON-MANAGER VIEWS COMPARED 137

    iv

  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    The Home Office and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are working together to reduce the number of working days lost to ill health and/or injury in the police forces of England and Wales. They commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to conduct a review of absence policies and management in police forces to inform this process. This review is intended to be used by the Home Office and HSE to develop measures to improve current practice in line with the Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on Health, Safety and Productivity aims and the drive to improve public sector efficiency.

    The specific aims of the review were to:

    ■ explore how sickness absence data is used to manage and monitor absence

    ■ explore views of the current absence management processes among police officers, police staff, line managers, HR and occupational health professionals

    ■ identify barriers experienced by staff, line managers, occupational health staff and HR staff in following and implementing current policies and procedures in everyday practice, and how these barriers are addressed within the local force.

    Guidance issued by the HSE, ACAS & CIPD (2006) and research by CBI (2006), CIPD (2006), NAO (2004) show that absence management cannot be viewed as just primarily policy and procedures. Successful absence management fundamentally depends on addressing wider organisational and management factors such as the culture of the organisation, their approach to well-being at work, communication skills and the ability of line managers to competently deliver policy. The project was, therefore, designed as a qualitative case study approach to embed the exploration of sickness absence management in the context of each force and to understand the surrounding issues that impact on absence, and absence management. The review is not a formal evaluation of each force’s policies and initiatives but a ‘snapshot’ of perceptions of the situation at the time of the study.

    METHODOLOGY

    A sample of seven police forces were recruited on the basis of the following criteria:

    ■ high, low and average absence rates for police officers and staff

    ■ improving or worsening absence rates

    ■ whether forces served predominantly urban or rural areas

    ■ size of force

    ■ geographical spread across England and Wales.

    The Metropolitan Police were excluded from the project because their size and roles in policing made them atypical compared to other forces. However, other metropolitan forces were included for sample selection.

    Data was collected using a range of data collection methods and staff and officers across a range of grades and functional roles. This included:

    ■ a review of absence policies

    ■ interviews with those who had a major responsibility for absence: Chief Officers, HR Managers, HR Business Partners, Absence Data Managers, Occupational Health professionals and Staff Welfare/Health and Safety Officers

    v

  • ■ focus groups with officers and staff, line managers, trade unions and those recently returned from long-term sickness

    ■ a short questionnaire to collect background and contextual data from focus group participants

    ■ telephone interviews with long-term absentees.

    ABSENCE POLICIES

    A well-documented policy is essential for any force to successfully manage absence. This needs to establish the processes to be used and who should be responsible for their initiation and delivery. The allocation of clear roles to the individual who is sick, the line manager, occupational health, HR and any other support services is essential. All the policies from the forces met these requirements.

    The accepted effecti

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