Press releases

Legal & General hold roundtable with Esther McVey MP in advance of the Sickness and Absence review.

Diane Buckley - Managing Director - Group Risk
Diane Buckley
Managing Director
Group Risk

19 October 2011

Diane Buckley - Managing Director - Group Risk
Diane Buckley
Managing Director
Group Risk

Legal & General have this morning held a breakfast roundtable with Esther McVey MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Employment, to discuss the role Britain's line managers in managing sickness and absence in the workplace.

Speaking at the event, Ms McVey said: "For the sickness and absence review's conclusions to be implemented effectively, line managers will be the crucial front line force, they are the unsung heroes of the British workplace".

Commenting on the roundtable, Diane Buckley, Managing Director of Legal & General's Group Income Protection Business, said:

"Every year hundreds of thousands of people's journey to long term sickness benefits begins in the workplace. We want to work with Britain's line managers to help provide them with the support they need to cut sickness and absence". In recent years responsibility for the management of sickness and absence has largely been devolved to line managers. In the recent CIPD absence management survey it was estimated that "line managers take primary responsibility for managing short-term absence in two-thirds of organisations overall and more than three-quarters in the public sector. They take responsibility for managing long-term absence in 55% of organisations overall (73% of the public sector)".

The roundtable was joined by a range of specialists in the subject area such as Legal & General's Chief Medical Officer and Vanessa Sallows, Legal & General's head of early intervention. Nicky Richards, HR Manager at Legal & General, also spoke about the recent Wellbeing Initiative piloted in Legal & General offices in Cardiff and Hove which, among other initiatives, provided an extensive training programme via the provider 'Stand to Reason' for line managers on emotional wellbeing. The programme provided managers with; A greater awareness of emotional wellbeing issues in the workplace; A clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities; Knowledge to support members of their team with emotional wellbeing issues.

From November 2010 to April 2011 the sickness absence figures were 15% better across the pilot group than for the same period in 2009-10. Legal & General also saved £68,535 over the course of the 6 months because of the reduction in sickness absence.

Commenting on the scheme Nicky Richards said: "Our own internal wellbeing pilot has demonstrated that early intervention and wellbeing programmes alongside proactive line management can have a significant impact on absence rates in businesses. Our experiences highlight the importance of early intervention before people become unwell and the appropriate support in place to help people at work when they are ill."

Notes to editors

Other research into sickness and absence in the workplace "In the period before a continued absence became long-term, the line manager was typically the main actor". DWP research report 751: Health & Wellbeing at Work "For their part, line managers' scores have been fairly static over the last three years. Trust in line managers is even more critical to organisational performance than trust in CEOs, so this lack of progress is a real cause for concern."
Index of Leadership 2011
"In the follow-up interviews of 11 public and 19 private sector human resource specialists, most reported that it was line managers who played the key role in managing absence".

Absence Management in the Public Services: Recent Evidence from the UK by Pauline Dibben, Philip James, Ian Cunningham.
"More than nine organisations in 10 (94.2%) told us that responsibility for managing underperformance lies principally with line managers".
Xpert HR report "You've got a knuckle duster in one hand and a glass of water and a cup of tea in the other."
(Trade union representative, LA2 Absence Management in the Public Services: Recent Evidence from the UK by Pauline Dibben, Philip James, Ian Cunningham.)

About Ether McVey MP

  • Esther was elected to Parliament in the 2010 General Election, winning the seat of Wirral West. She was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chris Grayling, Minister of State for Employment shortly afterwards.
  • Esther was born and brought up in Liverpool and educated at Belvedere school before going to Queen Mary and Westfield University to study law. After graduating she did a post-graduation course in radio journalism before embarking on a successful career in the media, both as a presenter and producer.
  • She is Managing Director of her own company Making It (UK) Ltd; which developed and runs office and incubator space to help small companies set up in business- receiving an acclaim from the Merseyside Entrepreneur Commission, and through which she founded ‘Winning Women' an organisation which helps people set up in business as well as advance on the business ladder, and for which, Esther was nominated for both Merseyside Woman of the Year and Cheshire Woman of the Year.

The Government's sickness and absence review

  • The roundtable was held in advance of the government's review on the way that absence in handled in the workplace. The review, announced by the Department of Work and Pensions, is led by Dame Carol Black and David Frost.
  • The review, which is jointly sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, includes a panel of experts from business, trade unions and health representatives and will be conducted in the context of the Growth Agenda. It will also feed into the wider Employment Law Review, which is looking at measures to reduce red tape and remove the burdens on business, encourage growth and maximise flexibility for employers and employees.
  • Also announced is an additional £12 million of funding for health and work programmes, including the Fit for Work Service and Occupational Health Advice lines. Both have already proved highly successful in providing support for both employers and individuals in the early stages of sickness absence.

Legal & General's approach to getting people back to work

  • Every year, around 350,000 make a transition from work to incapacity benefits - many of these people could, and want, to go back to work (Working for a Healthier Britain, Dame Carol Black's Review Of The Health Of Britain's Working Age Population, March 2008). Responsible employers can look after their staff by supplementing state sickness pay with enhanced and prolonged sick pay at a reasonable cost. Legal & General's Group Income Protection cover, Workplace Recovery, can provide additional benefits in the form of early intervention and rehabilitation to help employees back into the workforce more quickly and effectively.
  • Group Protection (or Group Risk) benefits are provided by employers to their employees. They provide employee benefits that are paid if an employee dies in service or while they are