Professor Mansel Aylward, director of the UnumProvident centre for psychosocial and disability research at Cardiff University and ex-chief medical officer of the DWP, states the case for looking at absenteeism.

“Lessons learned from looking at the literature, looking at our work and other people’s work in the UK, Europe and the US, show that productivity and non-attendance, presenteeism, turnover and low morale are symptoms of wider organisational problems,” he said.

“Treating symptoms are not enough if we do not treat the underlying causes. Returning people to work and keeping people in work will not improve the quality of working life or business importance. Presenteeism and absence levels affect the bottom line.

“What I think the evidence suggests is that a healthy workplace is important, and this can be extrapolated to include the importance of rehabilitation and the disastrous effects of worklessness.

“A healthy workplace is moderated by leadership, culture, organisation, openness, and communication as well as the work involved.”

He said that at many workplaces where increases in accidents and absence rates have been recorded, including an increase in long-term absence, the principal problem is not the actual workplace, but the dysfunctional working environment ?caused by bad organisation and bad management. “We need to promote a climate where people are allowed to be well,” he said.