Headlines: August 21st, 2009

Sick absence in the public sector is significantly higher than the private sector and there is no satisfactory answer why this is so. The interim review of NHS Health and Wellbeing by Dr Steve Boorman indicates that the problem may be more to do with management than the health of the staff.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development welcomed the drive to improve health awareness and employee wellbeing across the NHS, but is concerned that the next stage should look at how people are managed on a day to day basis by line managers and supervisors.

The Institute said that there is no point in providing employees with subsidised gym membership or advice on healthy eating and exercise if they dread coming to work because they have received inadequate training, they are bullied by their manager or they are drowning under their workload. Employees who are under stress at work because of excessive workloads or long hours are also more likely to eat less healthily, take less exercise and smoke and drink more.

Research by the Institute shows that engaged employees who benefit from good quality line management and appropriate training and development and who feel they are trusted and treated fairly at work perform better, take less sick leave and are less likely to quit.

Ben Willmott, Senior Public Policy Adviser at the Institute said: ” One of the problems facing the NHS is that senior nurses, doctors and consultants are not given sufficient training in managing people. The CIPD believes that people management skills must be included as a critical element of the development of all professions involved in the delivery of public services. There are many great professionals in the public sector – great doctors, great nurses, great social workers and great teachers – but they’re not all natural born managers of people. Recognising this holds one of the keys to improving public service quality and productivity.”

He continued: “The NHS interim review on employee health and absence levels raises wider issues around people management in public services”.