Port of London Authority

Company profile

  • No. of employees: 365
  • Business sector: Public sector
  • Business activities: Facilitating safe navigation of the tidal Thames
  • Stakeholders: Employees and the PLA
  • Location: London and Gravesend

The challenge

The PLA employs 365 staff to provide safe navigation on the tidal Thames. By implementing an effective sickness absence management policy, the PLA ensures that staff are supported during ill health absence. As a result of reduced absences, the business benefit is more staff contributing to services.

When a new Head of Personnel and Development was appointed at the PLA he conducted an analysis of staff absence through ill health. This found that absence levels were a considerable drain on the organisation. With a view to helping the PLA provide the best service it could for its clients, and to support staff during absences, the PLA decided that a more effective sickness absence management system should be introduced.

What did the company do?

The PLA introduced an effective sickness absence management programme which includes:

Business benefits

Health and safety benefits

'All staff are aware that absence is effectively managed. This has had a positive effect on morale to those staff who have to cover for sickness absence'

Glenn Witham, Head of Personnel and Development

Cost benefits

The expanded use of the PLA's occupational health service has cost an estimated £16,000 / year. Manager's time spent managing absence is the same, but the focus is different. More effort is placed on causes of absence and assisting staff return to work, rather than coping with the effects of absence in the workplace.

Exact savings from the reduced levels of absence haven't been calculated (due to the wide salary span within the PLA). However, the 70% reduction in staff absence is equivalent to around 30 staff at work. This greatly outweighs the additional cost of their occupational health service.

As all PLA's operations are financed from revenue with no outside support, the increase in staff in work has been very welcome.


The Head of Personnel and Development is a member of the Executive Committee (PLA's equivalent to a Board of Directors) and secured the Committee's full support for the initiative.

Worker involvement

All managers and employees have received training and briefings in the new systems and procedures. Representatives from TGWU, National Union of Maritime, Air and Sea Transport (NUMAST), Unison and the London Pilots Committee were kept informed of the initiative.

'The overall benefit in managing absence has resulted in a much more focused approach to absence monitoring and ill health issues in the organisation'

Glenn Witham, Head of Personnel and Development

Updated 2021-08-03