Move to refer ill staff to nurses cuts absence levels

    Public sector bodies are increasingly referring staff to nurses
    when they go off sick, rather than leaving matters to managers.

    Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), which is responsible for
    council homes in Rochdale borough, has launched a scheme where,
    instead of calling their manager when staff are unwell, they call a
    specialist health advice service.

    Staff can then speak to a nurse, who provides confidential
    health advice, and advises on medical treatment. If the employee is
    absent for some time, the nurse will remain in touch. The new
    service will be available to all 640 RBH staff.

    “We have reduced the levels of absence, but there is still a
    need to improve,” said managing director, Paul Neate. “When staff
    are off sick, it puts more pressure on their colleagues.

    “We recognise that when staff are genuinely ill, they need
    support and good advice rather than further pressure.”

    When staff return from absence, they will still be interviewed
    by their line manager. Where they have to take several absences
    over a period of months, they will need to attend an interview with
    a personnel officer to find out whether the absence is
    work-related.

    The news comes after York Council announced it was to extend the
    trial period for its sickness absence initiative where employees
    telephone medically qualified occupational health nurses when
    ill.

    Despite a lack of support from trade unions, Ken Green, head of
    personnel, said scepticism surrounding the scheme would disappear
    over time. He cited a positive response from staff to a poll on the
    issue.

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