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Employee Disability, Absenteeism and Productivity Issues

Author: Shepell-fgi

Published: 2009-06-05 : (Rev. 2010-06-24)

Synopsis and Key Points:

New survey says supervisors and managers are poorly equipped to deal with employee disability absenteeism and productivity issues.

Main Digest

New survey says supervisors and managers are poorly equipped to deal with employee disability, absenteeism and productivity issues.

A new research brief concludes that far too many supervisors and managers in the Canadian workplace are not equipped to deal with employee health, productivity, absenteeism, disability, and employees returning to work after an absence. According to the survey, which involved more than 100 Canadian organizations, this can be even more of a problem during times of economic uncertainty.

Shepell-fgi, Canada's leading provider of workplace health and productivity solutions, surveyed Human Resources professionals at the 2008 Health, Work and Wellness Conference, held in Vancouver last October. The underlying theme of many responses was that manager support for employee health and productivity is sadly lacking. The research brief, The Missing

The Supervisor's Role in Employee Health Management, was prepared by the Shepell-fgi Research Group. According to the brief:

84% of respondents said that supervisors in their organizations do not receive data on real-time employee absence

81% said their organization does not have a structured process in place consistently used by supervisors to address intermittent problems with employee absence

64% said their organization does not have a structured process in place consistently used by supervisors to support employees returning to work after an illness or disability

84% said their organization does not have a structured process in place consistently used by supervisors to address significant changes or problems in employee productivity or behavior.

"When leaders from more than 100 of Canada's top organizations say they do not have the basic tools to support employees in distress, it raises a lot of concern," said Rod Phillips, President and CEO of Shepell-fgi. "This is especially true in challenging economic times, when employee health and productivity is a key element for any business to withstand the downturn, and emerge from it in a position of strength."

Phillips said employee access of EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) in the Canadian workplace has increased by 10% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to last year, largely due to the economy. In February, the Shepell-fgi Research Group released a report called Financial Distress Impacts Health and Productivity, which showed rising rates of EAP access by employees, especially for financial concerns.

The survey was completed by managers, employees, and senior leaders. About 60% of the respondents worked in benefits and pensions, human resources, and health and safety. Others were involved in disability management, business operations management, technology and data management, occupational health, finance, and payroll and administration.

"Supervisors are asking for more support in managing the whole issue of employee absence, which includes being less than optimally productive when one is at work, along with absence and disability," said Karen Seward, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, Shepell-fgi.

"Managers are on the front lines, now more than ever. They see what is happening, but often feel reluctant or powerless to intervene. Too often, organizations fail to fully use the tools at their disposal, including the effective use of the manager supports and health promotion strategies available from their Employee Assistance Program."

Seward said organizations should do the following:

1. Establish preventative measures to include proactive promotion of EAP-based employee needs, both at the broader organizational level and at the work-group level.

2. Establish regular and formal manager/supervisor training to identify and respond to declining productivity and changes in employee behavior.

3. Support managers and supervisors with absence data, and also absence trending data, so managers will know when to intervene when it comes to employee absence.

4. Support managers and supervisors with better and more consistent, return-to-work processes.

"The survey data were interesting for a couple of reasons," added Paula Allen, Vice President, Organizational Solutions & Training, Shepell-fgi. "We set out to understand more about organizations' disability practices - what was working, what wasn't. What we found was something even more basic. Not only do organizations still seem to have a fragmented approach to managing absence and disability, but many aren't measuring it at all, much less equipping the very people they rely on to manage the problem with the tools they need to stem the costs."

Reference: Shepell-fgi is Canada's leading provider of workplace health and productivity solutions, including prevention-focused Employee Assistance Programs, Health and Disability Management, Organizational Solutions, and Training. The company serves over eight million employees and their families across Canada, the United States, and internationally. Shepell-fgi helps organizations maintain healthy employees and healthy workplaces.

The Shepell-fgi Research group, a division of Shepell-fgi, has a mandate to educate employers and business leaders on physical, mental and social health issues as these factors impact employees, their families, and their workplaces. The Shepell-fgi Research Group offers a precise understanding of health and wellness trends by conducting sector and issue-based analysis. Since 2002, the Shepell-fgi Research Group has published eighteen issue-based reports and eight sector-based reports.

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