A Confederation of British Industry annual survey of absence and labour turnover in 2002 (CBI, 2002) showed that time lost due to absence was on average 6.8 days per employee and the average cost of absence per employee was estimated to be £476; equivalent to a cost to UK business as a whole of £11.6 billion. It is an aim of the HSE's occupational health strategy for Great Britain - 'Securing Health Together' - to achieve a 30% reduction, by 2010, in the number of work days lost due to work-related illhealth. Absence management is a practice used with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success across sections of UK business and public services. Currently information on sickness absence is collected in many different ways and there is a need for a standardised recording system so that progress towards this target can be measured. The development of such a tool would also allow the information to be used more effectively in monitoring work-related sickness absence by combining data and examining trends, so informing decisions on relevant workplace interventions to improve the work environment and help prevent work-related ill health. The overall aim of this research and development programme was to investigate, design, develop and validate suitable tools for recording sickness-absence, including a recording system, a classification system to allow the systematic coding of causes of absence, and non-specialist guidance to their use and sickness absence management more generally. The work took place in three major parts. Phase 1 conducted research into current methods and systems for sickness absence recording, analysis and management, and related issues. Phase 2 developed sickness absence recording tools consisting of a PC based recording tool, a sickness absence cause classification scheme and guidance materials to assist in sickness absence management. The third phase conducted a validation exercise to test and revise the recording tool. This work has successfully provided these key outputs in the< sickness absence recording tool system, classification scheme, and the sickness absence management guidance materials, and their validation and revision. The products are reported on and are available for review via accompanying appendices, and SART software. Issues and potential methods for the ongoing development and distribution of the tools are presented and discussed.
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