As Australia continues to experience skilled labour shortages across many industry sectors, there is a renewed focus on keeping the workforce healthy, happy and productive.
Absenteeism is estimated to cost the Australian economy over AU$35 billion in wages and lost productivity every year, so adopting a people-first approach to absence management is a worthwhile investment.
Absenteeism on the rise
In 2019, Sedgwick’s Direct Health Solutions (DHS) carried out an Absence Management and Wellbeing Survey which asked 104 organisations across Australia to provide data on all unplanned absenteeism.
Included was personal leave, workers compensation leave and unauthorised leave, paid and unpaid.
Compared to Sedgwick's 2017 survey on the same topic, the results show:
- Absenteeism has increased by 1.5 days to 11.2 days per employee per annum
- 85 per cent of respondents were focused on managing absenteeism in their organisation, an increase of 12 per cent
Getting in early
Early communication is key to improving recovery and return-to-work outcomes when an employee cannot work due to an illness or injury.
Recent figures published by Safe Work Australia suggest that when contact is made with an injured worker within the first three days post-injury, their return-to-work outcomes improve substantially — up to 63 per cent for psychological injuries and 26 per cent for physical injuries.
In addition, research carried out by Melbourne’s Monash University in 2018 determined that the overall recovery and return-to-work process is more efficient when an injury notification and claims lodgment is raised quickly.
In cases that involve a delay, the employee is more likely to need an extended period away from work.
In circumstances where an injured or ill employee received early support from their employer and colleagues, the employee demonstrated lower levels of concern in raising a claim.
Employees who are not concerned about making a claim are three times more likely to return to work.
Absence management programs
There are countless resources available to support both employers and ill or injured employees.
WorkSafe Victoria is currently running a major campaign to reinforce the importance of early contact which incorporates providing employers with access to a toolkit and guidance on starting and maintaining conversations with ill or injured employees.
Similarly, Australian regulators have tailored their websites, outlining simple and adaptable tasks for employers to help support a positive recovery and return-to-work experience for their workforce.
For a relatively low investment, a properly implemented absence management and workers’ compensation program will enable employers to improve employee health, recovery and return-to-work outcomes.
Making use of technology
One solution that can make a significant impact is a 24/7 nurse triage service that offers real-time injury or absence notifications to enable early contact opportunities.
As technology develops, digital platforms can promote a higher degree of connectivity and engagement.
To assist businesses in simplifying the recovery and return-to-work process, our self-service portal, mySedgwick, provides clients and injured workers with real-time information on claims status, payment history, documents and more, by tablet, computer or smartphone.
With smart.ly, our intake and incident management platform, forward-thinking technology including real-time system interactions and integrated artificial intelligence is integrated behind the scenes to make the intake process as simple as possible for the end user.
When a people-first approach in absence management and workers compensation is properly implemented, employers can improve:
- Employee health
- Return-to-work outcomes for a relatively low investment
Whether an employee needs to take time off work for an illness or other life event, or they are injured in the workplace, on a client’s premises or by their equipment or products, early intervention and regular support are crucial to getting them on the road to recovery and back into the workplace.
Apart from creating better outcomes for employees, this type of approach also drives huge savings in absenteeism.
And while there are always evolving challenges related to returning to work for ill or injured employees, creative thinking and the use of the latest technology can help us find solutions and exceed expectations.