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Moves to improve rehabilitation from workplace injury

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According to the TUC there are seven steps which employers should take to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. These health problems are estimated to cost the British economy £14 billion annually, 14.5 million days of sickness absence, and 27,000 workers leaving the workforce permanently every year.

The TUC found that even in the workplaces where unions are recognised (generally better than average employers), only one in twelve had achieved best practice on rehabilitation. Two thirds of the businesses surveyed couldn’t even manage good practice. In construction, only one in twelve companies had good practice.

The research, which was funded by the Department of Work and Pensions, asked union reps in 1200 workplaces about what was done for people whose ill-health or injury affected their ability to work, and identified what makes a good rehabilitation and retention system. Nine case studies have been developed.

Action points for employers

– establish clear policies on rehabilitating their injured workers;

– separate sickness absence management from disciplinary processes;

– work with unions and the workforce to develop policies on rehabilitation, and be open about the implementation of those policies;

– respond actively to sickness absence, by staying in touch with workers off sick and referring them for medical checks early;

– adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to rehabilitation, involving senior and line managers, personnel and health professionals;

– making the initial presumption that sickness absence is work-related (and investigating possible causes) unless proved otherwise; and

– provide access to good occupational health facilities.

“Rehabilitation and retention: what works is what matters” is available on the TUC website. The full report, Rehabilitation and retention: the workplace experience, is also there, and so are the full case studies (Rehabilitation and retention: case studies).

Other Findings
– About a third of workplaces surveyed (34%) exhibited good practice on rehabilitation, but only 8% achieved best practice.


T- he main problems likely to affect the ability of employees to carry out their duties were stress (67%), back pain (55%), infections (39%) and RSI (31%). (The first, second and third worst problem were counted for each workplace so the numbers total to more than 100%).


– The commonest steps which employers are taking to return people to work are phased returns to work (56%), changes to tasks, or work content (54%), changed working hours (44%), visits to keep in touch (39%) and providing training (23%).

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