Workplace Health

Long-Term Sickness Absence and Capability to Work

Published in: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2019)

Posted on RAND.org on June 11, 2020

by Michael Whitmore

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Frequent absence may indicate general ill health which requires medical investigation and, if continued, may indicate work stress or lack of capability to do the job. Repeated absence for short periods is likely both to undermine the individual employee's own performance and cause disruption for colleagues and the wider organisation, including:

  • The need to find temporary replacement cover (sometimes for quite specialist tasks)
  • Increasing the workload of others; general disruption of the remaining workforce and workflow
  • Other employees feeling resentful if they think an individual's repeated absences are not being addressed
  • Reduction in employee morale
  • The risk that a culture of frequent absenteeism may develop across the wider workforce.

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