The Home Office and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are working together to reduce the number of working days lost to ill health and/or injury in the police forces of England and Wales. They commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to conduct a review of the absence management in police forces to inform this process.

The specific aims of the review were to:

  • explore how sickness absence data is used to manage and monitor absence
  • explore views of the current absence management processes among police officers, police staff, line managers, HR and occupational health professionals
  • identify barriers experienced by staff, line managers, occupational health staff and HR staff in following and implementing current policies and procedures in everyday practice, and how these barriers are addressed within the local force.

Guidance issued by the HSE, ACAS & CIPD (2006) and research by CBI (2006), CIPD (2006), NAO (2004) show that absence management cannot be viewed as just primarily policy and procedures. Successful absence management fundamentally depends on addressing wider organisational and management factors such as the culture of the organisation, their approach to well-being at work, communication skills and the ability of line managers to competently deliver policy. The project was, therefore, designed as a qualitative case study approach to embed the exploration of sickness absence management in the context of each force and to understand the surrounding issues that impact on absence, and absence management. The review is not a formal evaluation of each force’s policies and initiatives but a ‘snapshot’ of perceptions of the situation at the time of the study.

Managing sickness absence in the police service