The gatekeepers to employee health and wellbeing
The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for comprehensive employer wellbeing strategies. Workplace mental health should now be a standard agenda item for HR professionals as employees continue to overcome the impact of COVID-related physical illness, changes in working locations, hours, and remuneration. Nine out of ten organisations have experienced absence due to COVID-19 with mental health being the primary cause. However, effective implementation of a wellbeing strategy to mitigate absence is limited by the training and engagement of line managers who are the gatekeepers to employees accessing help and support. The CIPD’s 2021 Health & Wellbeing at Work annual survey states that whilst organisations recognise the role of line managers in absence management, “less than a third provide these managers with training and guidance to effectively do so”.
Organisations can better equip line managers to deal with employee absence in a number of key ways:
- Provide a refresh of company policy and procedure on absence management including sick pay provision
- Demystify the support EAPs can offer as this is an underutilised frontline resource and outline all the key health provisions including any occupational health, private medical insurance, and income protection schemes.
- Provide training to line managers on the business risks of absentees. Whilst mismanagement of absentees can prolong the period of absence, there are also Disability Discrimination risks associated with restricting access to benefits.
- Group income protection insurers offer early intervention services with options of clinical treatment to mitigate prolonged absence. Line managers need to know when and how to access these services.
- Share the line manager’s responsibility through better engagement with HR and promoting employees’ self-help options.
Line managers who understand the organisational support available will have the confidence to address absence and potential absentees in their teams and will be able to open up conversations with employees knowing they do not have to provide the solution, but access to the available support. Identifying potential absentees whilst they are still at work and offering effective signposting to help at the right time, can in many cases prevent an initial absence from occurring. A cascade of knowledge of absence management resources from HR to line managers is key and having the line manager front and centre in an organisation’s wellbeing strategy will be one of the most impactful changes that can be made.
Victoria Roe Dos Santos – Senior Group Risk Consultant