Quality standard

Quality statement 1: Workplace culture and policies

Quality statement

Employees work in organisations that develop policies for managing sickness absence and return to work as part of a broader, strategically led approach to promoting employees' health and wellbeing.

Rationale

Workplace policies on sickness absence and return to work that are part of a proactively and strategically led commitment to employee health and wellbeing can help to prevent long-term sickness absence. These policies can help to reduce uncertainty about the sickness absence process and help employees return to work. Sickness absence and return-to-work policies should be flexible enough to support employees in different situations, depending on their individual circumstances and needs. Some organisations may not have formal policies in place, but they should still ensure that clear and accessible procedures are developed. Policies or procedures on sickness absence and return to work should be explained to all existing and new employees.

Quality measures

The following measures can be used to assess the quality of care or service provision specified in the statement. They are examples of how the statement can be measured, and can be adapted and used flexibly.

Structure

a) Evidence of a strategically led approach to employee health and wellbeing.

Data source: Local data collection, for example an employee health and wellbeing strategy with metrics and details of the progress made.

b) Evidence that policies for managing sickness absence and return to work are part of a strategically led approach to employee health and wellbeing.

Data source: Local data collection, for example policy reviews.

Outcome

a) Rates of long-term sickness absence.

Data source: Local data collection, for example HR management systems.

b) Rates of recurrent short-term sickness absence.

Data source: Local data collection, for example HR management systems.

c) Employee satisfaction with organisational implementation of policies for managing sickness absence and return to work.

Data source: Local data collection, for example staff surveys.

What the quality statement means for different audiences

Organisations (senior management teams) ensure that they have sickness absence and return-to-work policies in place, and that these policies are part of a proactive, strategic approach to promoting employee health and wellbeing. They ensure that the culture in their workplace is caring and supportive, and that the policies work for all employees. Organisations that do not have formal policies have clear and accessible procedures. They ensure that policies or procedures on sickness absence and return to work are explained to all existing and new employees.

Line managers ensure that they understand and apply sickness absence and return-to-work policies in a way that reflects a wider organisational culture that values and promotes employee health and wellbeing. They consider and accommodate the individual needs of employees when applying the policies. Line managers in organisations that do not have formal policies have a good understanding of available alternatives and apply clear and accessible procedures.

Employees are familiar with sickness absence management policies or procedures in their workplace. They are supported by their line managers in line with those policies or procedures in a way that meets their individual needs and situation. They experience this as part of a caring and supportive organisational culture that values and promotes employee health and wellbeing.

Source guidance

Workplace health: long-term sickness absence and capability to work. NICE guideline NG146 (2019), recommendations 1.1.2, 1.1.3 and 1.1.5

Definitions of terms used in this quality statement

Long-term sickness absence

An absence lasting 4 or more weeks. Recurring long-term sickness absence is defined as more than 1 episode of long-term sickness absence, with each episode lasting more than 4 weeks.

[NICE's guideline on workplace health: long-term sickness absence and capability to work]

Short-term sickness absence

An absence lasting up to (but less than) 4 weeks. Recurring short-term sickness absence is defined as more than 1 episode of short-term sickness absence, each lasting less than 4 weeks.

[NICE's guideline on workplace health: long-term sickness absence and capability to work]

Wellbeing

Wellbeing is the subjective state of being healthy, happy, contented, comfortable and satisfied with one's quality of life.

[NICE's guideline on workplace health: long-term sickness absence and capability to work]

Equality and diversity considerations

Employees should be provided with policies that they can easily read and understand themselves, or with support. Policies should be in a format that suits their needs and preferences. They should be accessible to people who do not speak or read English, and they should be culturally and age appropriate. Policies should consider the needs of employees as individuals, including requirements under the Equality Act 2010.