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Long-term sick could lose out due to poor communication with work

The UK economy is losing out because employers are failing to get the long-term sick back into their jobs, even when they are willing and able to work.

The extent of the problem has been brought to light by a report from Oxford Economics, which found that 63,000 people living with cancer want to work but are encountering barriers from doing so. The researchers reckoned that the cost of this to the UK economy is potentially £1.8 billion per annum.

One of the biggest obstacles these people faced was lack of communication. Despite well-intentioned efforts from employers at the beginning, it was found that a lack regular and meaningful communication had often led to a breakdown in relationships.

The research found that 560,000 people with cancer are active in the workforce, and contribute £16 billion to the economy every year.

Acas stresses the importance of maintaining regular contact with the long-term sick and absent. Occupational health and medical advice can be invaluable in examining whether a return to the same work might be possible or whether the employee might need some extra support. A reorganisation or redesign of the job may speed up the process, or possibly alternative or lighter work could be offered with retraining.

Anxiety about work can make the road to recovery that much harder, so it's important to keep employees fully aware of their current position. If appropriate, letting them know there's a job to return to can be a major reassurance.

The Acas Advisory booklet - Managing attendance and employee turnover has detailed information for employers about dealing with long-term absence. Acas also runs practical training courses on managing Absence at work.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

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