Use of published sickness absence guidelines by human resources professionals

Occup Med (Lond). 2015 Mar;65(2):107-9. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqu192. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


Background: Sickness absence causes organizational and economic pressures on employers. Professional organ izations have published guidelines to inform managers of the likely period of time off work resulting from common surgical operations and medical conditions.

Aims: To investigate how human resources professionals (HRPs) determine the expected length of time off work associated with common medical or surgical conditions.

Methods: We sent a hyperlink to an internet-based structured closed-ended survey to a cohort of HRPs consisting of all HRPs from organizations with a current contract with an National Health Service Foundation Trust Occupational Health (OH) department.

Results: Of 47 HRPs, 32 responded (68%). Most of the respondents (84%) used the general practitioner's 'fit note' (Med3) as a guide to likely time off work and 47% also used personal experience. Twenty-five per cent were aware of medical guidelines on time off work and 19% referred to these guidelines, although 50% of these had last done so >6 months ago. Eighty-seven per cent of HRPs thought the guidelines were easy to interpret and 75% would recommend them to others. However, 75% referred employees to the OH department for advice on sickness absence.

Conclusions: A high proportion of HRPs used information from the 'fit note' to make decisions about sickness absence duration. In addition, most referred employees to the OH department for advice on the expected length of time off work.

Keywords: Guidelines; human resources professionals; occupational medicine..

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • General Practitioners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Occupations
  • Personnel Management* / methods
  • Sick Leave* / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom