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Work is essential for good health

HSE InfoLine : 27 July, 2005  (Company News)
HSE has launched a new guide for safety and other trade union representatives, offering practical advice on long-term sickness absence and return to work issues. The Health and Safety Commission in a new strategy for Workplace Health and Safety have recognised the need to strengthen the role of health and safety in getting people back to work. HSE has published advice to help trade union officials to implement solutions to reduce sickness absence in the work place.
Each week one million workers take time off work because of sickness. Most return to work within days, however around 17 000 people are off work for longer. Almost one in five people who are off longer than 6 weeks leaves work permanently.

The guide outlines six key actions that union representatives can take, in partnership with employers, to reduce sickness absence and help sick employees to successfully return to work.

Actions trades union representatives can take with their employers include:

Helping to identify measures to improve worker health
Suggesting the development of workplace policies for managing sickness absence
Helping to keep workers who are off sick in contact with work
Helping to plan adjustments to enable return to work
Supporting and empowering sick workers to return to work
Helping to promote understanding of ill health and disability at work
Hugh Robertson, Head of Health and Safety at the TUC and an HSC member commented: 'This clear, concise and sensible guide will be a very important weapon in the armoury of safety representatives. It will help union safety representatives show employers that taking a positive approach to managing sickness absence and supporting workers in getting back to work is in everyone's interest. Safety representatives will very much welcome this practical advice from the HSE.'

Recent research for HSE has shown that consulting safety representatives on health and safety helps to improve working environments. Work is essential for good health and well-being and the longer people are off work, the less likely is their return the research concluded. The leaflet 'Working together to prevent sickness absence becoming job loss' can be found at The leaflet offers practical advice for safety and trade union representatives.
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