THE figures are staggering. Employers in Scotland pay out around £9 million a year in sick pay and associated costs. On top of that, they bear the indirect costs of managing business while people are off sick. In the region of 14 million working days are lost each year at a huge cost to Scotland’s economy.
That aside, there is also the human cost for those people who don’t manage to return to work, who don’t get the kind of support that might help them to do so, and whose skills are lost to the workforce, perhaps indefinitely.
There are clearly two sides to this equation – employer and employee – and that is true across every size of organisation from the smallest small and medium-sized business to the largest of public sector employer.
There are many contradictions and complexities within the existing management systems attempting to deal with all aspects of occupational health. The Salus organisation is the occupational health, safety, sickness, absence management and return-to-work service for Lanarkshire NHS, providing services for its 12,000 staff.
In addition, Salus services all aspects of occupational health and safety to public and private organisations across Scotland and England. It has bases in Lanarkshire and in Fleetwood in north-east England.
It’s a rather unusual business model. Staff are employees of NHS Lanarkshire but tender for various appropriately funded projects. Their services take in clients that include the Ministry of Defence on the one hand and smaller private sector enterprises on the other. Any surplus monies are ploughed back into NHS Lanarkshire for patient services.
Salus fosters close working relationships with many organisations including the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives, Department of Work and Pensions and other NHS occupational health and safety departments in order to deliver their full range of services across the UK.
Principal occupational health adviser, Kay Japp, insists that what Salus does is no optional add-on. She says: “Making good provision for your workforce will pay dividends at every level. Employees see a caring employer who is prepared to invest in their wellbeing, whether that’s in terms of supporting people who are ill, promoting a healthier lifestyle or ensuring that services such as physiotherapy and occupational health are readily accessible when needed.”
Japp adds: “The evidence has shown time and again that a healthy, happy workforce that is fully engaged and motivated delivers higher productivity and lower absence through sickness.”