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In Sickness and in Health: Reducing Sickness Absence in the Police Service

NCJ Number
Jenny Arnott; Kaite Emmerson
Lawrence Singer
Date Published
105 pages
This report discusses the management of sickness absence within the Police Services in the United Kingdom.
Focusing on sickness absence and medical retirement within the Police Services in the United Kingdom, this report details this growing financial concern. After arguing that the Home Affairs Committee drew initial attention to increasing levels of sickness absence and medical retirements in the police in 1991, this report maintains that the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review emphasized the potential savings that police authorities could make by reducing sickness absence. Aiming to explore the effectiveness that sickness management has at the local level, the authors conducted a postal survey between April and May 2000 with 43 forces in England and Wales and telephone interviews with a sample of these forces in June 2000 in order to assess the range of sickness absence management incentives in place. After arguing that a lack of suitable data has prevented any robust evaluation of various absence management incentives currently underway, the authors argue that a range of diverse initiatives has been developed within individual forces with several forces introducing a variety of initiatives in tandem with others as a part of a comprehensive “sickness reduction strategy.” The authors state that while some initiatives have been perceived by survey and interview respondents to be very effective by forces in reducing levels of sickness absence, implementation of other initiatives has raised objectives from staff, line-managers, and representative bodies, resulting in various implementation problems. Some of the most effective initiatives in reducing sickness absence within police services in the United Kingdom include the expansion of occupational health services, stringent management practices, incentive schemes, and sanctions restricting the promotion and training opportunities for staff with poor attendance rates. This report concludes with the authors arguing that while police forces are making serious in-roads in reducing the levels of sickness absence, much more work needs to be done in order to prevent staff from being absent in the first place. Tables, references, appendices