SME Sickness Absence – Prevention or Cure, THAT is the Problem…

Most of my blogs have been about topics in the news that I find interesting, or on which I’d like to provoke a little debate, but this time round I thought I’d take a slightly different approach and reach out to people who, like me, run or work for small/micro businesses for whom sickness absence can be a massive headache.

 

Those of you who know me will be aware that I’m an “egg chaser”, a “spoiler of rugby matches”, or whatever other term you like to use to say that I referee rugby matches, something I took up after recovering from a dislocated knee and a rebuild when the ligaments ruptured.  I also like to cycle, run, climb mountains and do all sorts of other activities that have, over the years, taken a physical toll.

 

Over recent months, my knee had become increasingly painful to the point that, a few weeks ago, I found myself missing a train because I wasn’t able to run/walk fast enough from platform to platform to catch the connection.  This brought home that I needed some sort of medical intervention or I was going to end up not able to work, and therein comes the point of this blog.

Since I went self-employed, I have become painfully (sic!) aware that if I’m not working, I’m not earning.  Worse, because my business is relatively young, I don’t have a track record against which to claim appropriate lost earnings on my insurance (without the said insurance being prohibitively expensive).

 

So, what should I do?

I was already aware of Healthy Working Lives though having worked with an employer who needed their advice in making reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee (another of the services available).  However, in this case, I am more specifically describing the support they can provide for self-employed people or those working in small and medium enterprises, where possible preventing people from going off sick when an early medical intervention might keep them working.

For a small/micro business, the benefit of these approaches is 2-fold:

  1. the individual doesn’t lose income when they needn’t have done;
  2. the business doesn’t lose capacity to deliver for clients/customers.

This runs alongside Fit for Work (operating as Fit for Work Scotland north of the border), a UK-wide initiative aimed at getting people back to work quicker and “reduce the impact that absence has on individuals, employers and the State”, the main difference seeming to be that Fit for Work focuses more on people who are already off work.

 

How does it work?

Well, for me it involved me contacting the Healthy Working Lives advice line (0800 019 2211), answering a few simple questions about my working situation and the nature of the illness, then waiting for contact back.  The result was that I had an appointment with an NHS physiotherapist in less than a week, and, with her guidance, I’ve started a rehabilitation programme that should address the problem and stop it from developing to a stage that prevents me from working.  And if the programme doesn’t work, I’ll be referred to a Consultant who can review anything else that needs to be done.

It’s the second time I’ve needed to use the service since I started my own business, and my experience both times has been very similar, I got the medical support I needed when I needed it and avoided lost time off sick.  I mentioned this at a meeting of my local Chamber of Commerce last year and was amazed that I seemed to be the only SME owner who was aware of it, so I thought I’d share a bit wider that such a service exists.

 

I’d be interested to hear any other hints/tips that anyone out there might have, so please share them if you can.

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