Case study: Royal Mail line managers key to support package for sick staff

At Royal Mail, line manager involvement is central to engaging staff in their early recovery and return to work.

The firm’s chief medical adviser, Dr Steve Boorman, says: “We did a lot of work on how to manage attendance, and one issue we identified was there was a risk of little contact between manager and employee until the individual was signed fit to return.”

Now Royal Mail ensures contact is made between manager and staff as soon as they go off sick. For those with musculoskeletal or mental health problems, the onus is then on the line manager to secure early intervention and support from occupational health.

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Boorman, who headed up the NHS health and wellbeing: the Boorman review, published in November 2009, says a significant predictor of future absence was the degree of empathy and constructiveness managers showed in return-to-work interviews.

Royal Mail has now developed interactive support tools and training materials to support managers in how to conduct return-to-work interviews.

Its attendance management strategy is supported by its benefits. Its 365-days-a-year, 24/7 employee assistance programme has been extended to provide legal, debt and financial advice, as well as information on work modification and health advice.

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