health & social care

5th Annual Tackling Sickness Absence Forum

health & social care

08:45 - 16:30

Thursday 6 February 2020

Central London

Early Bird Discount Offer

10% off all advertised rates for a limited time only. Discount available to public / voluntary organisations only.


This Forum provides the opportunity to explore effective strategies for successfully managing and reducing sickness absence in the workplace. Attendees will hear from a combination of key organisations and stakeholders including The Department for Work and Pensions, to discuss the government’s 2019 ‘Sickness absence and health in the workplace guidance, provide advice to senior leaders on dealing with sickness absence and addressing key areas of concern including presenteeism and managing employee’s return to work. In addition, participants will learn from best practice case studies, a panel discussion and an interactive workshop around successfully implementing preventative measures for reducing sickness absence, effectively using campaigns to improve in-work health and creating a supportive workforce.


This Forum is designed for the wider public and voluntary sectors. Typical job titles will include:

  • HR Managers & Advisers
  • HR Directors & Business Partners
  • Heads of Employee Relations
  • Directors of Workforce & Organisational Development
  • Occupational Health Managers
  • Workplace Wellbeing Leads
  • Health and Safety Teams
  • Operational Team Leaders
  • Chief Executive Officers
  • Mental Health Champions
  • Councillors

This Forum is also open to the private sector to encourage discussion and networking.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Angus Gray, Work and Health Unit, Deputy Director of Strategy and Employer Policy, Department for Work and Pensions
View the agenda and additional speakers


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Dr Alan Page, Course Leader – MSc Occupational Safety, Health, and Environment Management, Middlesex University (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Outlining and Understanding the Landscape of Sickness Absence Across the UK

  • Exploring findings in the 2019 ‘Sickness absence and health in the workplace’ report, including 61% of employers facing barriers in supporting employees to return to work after sickness absence
  • Analysing employer attitudes on health and wellbeing, including 26% of employers highlighting that sickness absence is a barrier to productivity
  • Outlining the risks associated with long-term sickness absence such as 57% of respondents concerned with the cost of covering work within the organisation, 41% concerned with external cover and 28% concerned with paying sick pay
  • Exploring the consultation exploring statutory sick pay for staff on minimum wage which aims to lower the threshold at which employees are eligible for statutory sick pay and explores a potential rebate for smaller organisations to help manage sickness absence
  • Advising organisation to consider investing in internal wellbeing tools through wellbeing at work policies and increasing staff in-take, as findings show that 64% of challenges leading to absence include lack of time or resources

Angus Gray, Work and Health Unit, Deputy Director of Strategy and Employer Policy, Department for Work and Pensions (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Outlining Key Health Guidance on Supporting Employers at Risk and Experiencing Long-term Sickness Absence

  • Exploring the 2019 ‘Workplace health: long-term sickness absence and capability to work’ draft guidance, which outlines how to aid employers returning to work after long-term sickness absence and implementing preventative measures
  • Analysing key recommendations around changing workplace culture and policies by ensuring that clear procedures for reporting and managing sickness are in place and are explained to all employees
  • Demonstrating how to achieve a sustainable return to work for employees on long-tern sickness absence, including through a programme of graded delivery by a trained member of staff and providing problem-solving therapy
  • Providing advice on early intervention techniques for employers at risk of sickness absence, such as encouraging employees to discuss referral options with their GPs
  • Outlining how to successfully carry out workplace adjustments for an individual returning to work by carrying out additional risk assessments to specify which adjustments are needed before implementation

Dr Paul Chrisp, Director of the Centre for Guidelines, NICE (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Workshop: Providing Employers with a Toolkit for Successfully Managing Sickness Absence

  • Outlining how to produce an effective ‘Management of Sickness Absence Policy’ by referring to and reviewing best practice policy samples
  • Aiding employers to understand when it is appropriate and how to legally obtain medical information from the employee’s GP, and/or an occupational health practitioner
  • Exploring the best method to take in terms of keeping in touch with absent employees including a sympathetic approach of acknowledging that employees have been absent and that they are highly valued
  • Analysing how employers can take a fair approach to sickness absence, by facilitating a relationship with the absent employee through regular communication around the level of absence and planning how absence can be improved

Kevin Nunan, Interim Executive Director, Voluntary Action Camden (invited)


Case Study: Taking Preventative Measures to Reduce Sickness Absence: Investing in a New Staff Wellbeing Programme

  • Exploring the Trust’s Staff Wellbeing Programme which saved over £230,000 in salary costs, based on salary cost of sickness absence, by delivering a pilot programme of workshops, interventions and benefits to support staff health
  • Analysing how this programme, which managed 3,582 separate wellbeing cases, can be rolled out elsewhere by introducing a network of champions to signpost people and one-to-one sessions for individuals who had complex needs
  • Highlighting the key outcomes of the scheme which led to funding for the roll-out of the Staff Wellbeing Programme for all 8,000 employees, helping to create further reductions in sickness absence
  • Sharing guidance on embedding a mantra of employee health being as important as their patients across the trust

Winner of the ‘Most Improved’ award at REBA’s Employee Wellbeing Awards 2019

Winners of the Wellbeing at Work Award at the NHS Parliamentary Awards 2019

Guy Dickson, Head of People Strategy and the Wellbeing Programme, North Bristol NHS Trust (invited)


Case Study: Establishing a Regional Partnership Approach to Improving Employee Health and Wellbeing and Tackling Absence

  • Introducing the Working Win trial which tests innovative forms of holistic support for individuals likely to take leave due to physical and/or mental health issues by providing one-to-one support to suit a person’s needs and employment goals
  • Examining how the trial used international evidence and garnered a successful partnership among the Mayoral Combined Authority, local authorities, health partners, University of Sheffield and DWP to reach the government commitment to reduce sickness absence
  • Highlighting the challenges of establishing a large-scale trial scheme, such as ensuring the support reaches the right people, and exploring the methods implemented to overcome these challenges
  • Analysing the result of the trial so far including more than 2,000 ‘Working Win’ participants and the next steps to further supporting local businesses to improve employee wellbeing across the region

Krysia Wooffinden, Assistant Director for Skills, Employment and Education, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority (invited)

Adam Whitworth, Researcher in the Design of Effective Employment Support Interventions, University of Sheffield (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Exploring How to Reduce Sickness Absence Through Workplace Health Interventions Schemes

  • Exploring the June 2019 ‘Workplace health interventions and accreditation schemes’ research report, which suggests that supervised exercise programmes, cognitive behavioural programmes and multidisciplinary wellbeing initiatives help to reduce sickness absence
  • Highlighting that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach suitable for every occupational setting and sharing guidance on how public sector organisation can effectively disseminate best practise approaches to reduce sickness absences
  • Providing advice to government officials on developing ‘commissioning guidance’ which would allow local authorities to design their own health intervention schemes that cater to their local organisations’ needs
  • Demonstrating the best components of workplace health intervention schemes including collaborative working, buy-in from senior management and Interventions which alter the work environment and the employee’s behaviour

Melanie Wilkes, Policy Advisor, The Work Foundation (invited)


Special Keynote: Supporting Managers to Effectively Deal with Sickness Absence: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • Outlining how an organisation can effectively create a base level strategy to ensure working conditions are appropriate with a culture of inclusivity
  • Highlighting how to deal with mental health sickness absence, the most common cause of long-term absence, by embedding a mental health policy which utilises mental health champions within the organisation
  • Demonstrating how to deal with sickness absence after an employee returns to work by agreeing on ‘trigger points’, allowing employers to set out when repeated absence leads to formal action
  • Ensuring organisations continuously consider their duty of care which reaches beyond legal responsibility to protecting staff wellbeing including physical hazards, promoting awareness of important health issues and promoting a work-life balance

Victoria Sapsford, Regional Director – South East, London & East, ACAS (invited)


Case Study: Demonstrating the Power of Health Campaigns for Tackling Sickness Absence

  • Outlining the trust’s ‘it’s ok to ask for help’ campaign, which offers specialist support to absent staff and training to managers on dealing with sickness absence for instance through stress management workshops
  • Examining how the campaign was created in line with guidance from the NHS Litigation Authority and CQUIN initiatives, to ensure specialist advice on mental health and wellbeing issues is utilised
  • Outlining the key outcomes of the campaign including 98% of staff reporting that the campaign helped them stay in work, or return to work sooner from sick leave
  • Advising other health providers on how they can sustain such campaigns by embedding them into their staff wellbeing offer or strategy

Donna Butler Lead Psychotherapist / HELP Service Manager, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Special Keynote: Addressing Sickness Absence Caused by Mental Health Conditions

  • Exploring CIPD’s most recent report on ‘Absence Management’ which found that 1/3 of organisations reported a rise in stress-related absence since 2016 while 2/3 reported a rise in mental health issues
  • Locating the main causes of stress in the workplace including 68% of respondents reporting workload as the cause, 33% reporting management style as the cause and 41% suggesting that organisational restricting is the cause
  • Outlining common methods to prevent mental health related absence including 68% of respondents suggesting that conducting staff surveys is most effective and 56% suggesting that risk assessments are most effective
  • Outlining the most effective of these methods in supporting staff returning from sickness absence related to mental health issues including providing more flexible working option such as work from home and counselling
  • Identifying areas for improvement for organisations including creating mental health champions and sustained support for long-term mental health conditions

Rachel Suff, Employee Relations Adviser, CIPD (invited)


Interactive Panel & Audience Discussion: Successfully Creating a Supportive Workforce to Reduce Sickness Absence

Gain insights from leading experts as they debate how local authorities, the emergency services and the health sector can best work collaboratively to drastically reduce levels of employee sickness by building internal engagement sessions, creating an open and supportive workplace culture and establishing a new attendance policy.

Delegates will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the front-line challenges they face around tackling sickness absence with the panel and audience.

Chris Harvey, Organisational Development & Learning Manager, Oxford City Council (invited)

Caroline Deane, Area Manager People, and Organisational Development, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service (invited)

Ashley Judd, Deputy Director of Workforce, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*programme subject to change

According to the most recent absence management data by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the annual economic costs of sickness absence and worklessness are estimated to be over £100 billion, while around 330,000 jobs are lost every year because of health-related issues.

In June 2019, the Government released a Sickness Absence and Health in the Workplace: Understanding Employer Behaviour and Practice’ report which found that 90% of employers felt that they are responsible for encouraging employees to be healthy. It also outlines the range of methods employers are found to utilise in managing returns to work after sickness absence, such as opportunities for employees to return to work under flexible arrangements (84%), offering regular meetings (79%), or developing return to work plans (69%).

Furthermore, in January 2019, Public Health England released guidance on ‘Health Matters: Health and Work’. The guidance sets out how employers can ensure they are tackling sickness absence by guaranteeing jobs are sustainable and offer a minimum level of quality. These include measures such as providing a decent living wage, opportunities for in-work development, flexibility to enable people to balance work and family life and protection from adverse working conditions that can damage health. It also provides advice for local authorities including ensuring consistent collaboration between councils and LEPs, NHS CCGs, Health and Wellbeing Boards, and the voluntary sector. It outlines that collaboration between these sectors will generate a vibrant workplace environment for employees and remove health-related barriers.

In May 2019, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produced draft guidelines on ‘Workplace Health: Long-Term Sickness Absence and Capability’ which outlines how to aid employers returning to work after long-term sickness absence, how to lower recurring sickness absence and further preventative measures. These include measures such as monitoring and regularly reviewing the effectiveness of sickness absence policies and ensuring that managing sickness absence are part of a broader, strategically led effort to promoting employees’ health and wellbeing.

You May Also Like