Reducing MSK Absence Research Report

Reducing MSK Absence Research Report.

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Reducing MSK Absence Research Report

Download the report for more findings, best practice case studies and tips for reducing MSK absence across your organisation.
Our latest research report into ways of reducing employee absence looked at the musculoskeletal conditions driving absence and ways of reducing this. The analysis of over 1,600 cases of people struggling to work due to an MSK condition found that:
  • Referring people into workplace occupational health physiotherapy before they become too sick to work can reduce employee absence by 60%
  • One in two employees who have gone absent due to a MSK disorder can be helped to return to work within a month
  • Despite the benefits of proactive referral for reducing MSK absence, 6 out of 10 managers wait until the employee has been absent for over a month

Reducing MSK Absence

There is a direct correlation between the time taken to refer employees (into workplace occupational health physiotherapy) and their recovery time:
  • 97% of people who had a proactive referral into physiotherapy while they were still in work, were expected to be in work one month later. This compares to just 56% of those referred between 1-2 months of absence and 18% of those who had been off for over six months before being referred.
MSK absence report statistics

The best practice employers featured in the report discuss why they’re taking proactive steps to reduce MSK absence by making it easier for employees to get support sooner.

Download the report to find out how Marks & Spencer empowered its 60,000 employees to self-refer themselves for free physiotherapy advice. Plus, why NTW Solutions believes a more proactive approach to helping people with MSK conditions has significantly reduced employee absence.

Back problems critical for reducing MSK absence

Back problems are the main musculoskeletal condition that needs to be tackled to reduce employee absence. Almost half (49%) of those struggling with an MSK condition at work have a back problem. A third (29%) of absent employees have back pain.

This is mostly driven by backache, strained muscles and spinal ligaments, due to employees struggling to maintain good back health. Issues ranging from poor posture and increasingly sedentary lifestyles to weight gain are all putting pressure on backs.

MSK absence presenting issues
More than one in ten employees (13%) are absent from work due to a broken bone, or fracture. This also highlights the need for employers to do more to help employees look after their bone health, especially at a time when the British Nutrition Foundation estimates that one in six people in the UK are lacking the vitamin D intake needed for healthy bones.

Benefits of reducing MSK absence for employers

By referring people into workplace physiotherapy, before they become too sick to work, employers can dramatically reduce MSK absence.

Claire Glynn, clinical operations director, PAM Physio Solutions, says, “Our report shows the longer it takes for people to access physiotherapy, the more likely they are to become long-term sick. 97% of employees provided with workplace physiotherapy while still in work were expected to be in work a month later. Compared to just 56% of those referred after a month and 18% of those referred after six months.”

Simon Croker, service manager for colleague services at Marks & Spencer agrees, saying “The sooner employees can be helped to recover from a joint or muscle injury, the more likely they are to be able to remain in work. In some cases, they might just need some advice about self-treatment or a couple of hands-on physio sessions to help them relieve tension in a muscle. In other cases, they might need help to learn how to correct poor posture leading to pain. That’s why any of our 60,000 employees affected by an MSK issue can self-refer themselves for free advice and up to six free physiotherapy sessions.”

A key finding from the Nipping It In The Bud report is that the sooner employers take action the better. “The good news is that MSK issues are very treatable. Take back problems, which are responsible for a third of MSK absence. This is mostly due to poor posture and lack of exercise, rather than underlying medical conditions. There’s no reason why individuals can’t be quickly rehabilitated once they learn about the importance of not being too sedentary and working in ergonomic ways.”

He adds, “A bigger challenge is getting to people before unhealthy habits have a chance to develop. It’s concerning that 60% of managers are waiting until people have been off sick with an MSK issue for at least a month before referring them into workplace physiotherapy. This shouldn’t be seen as a last resort, it’s an upfront way of helping people to get the support they need to stay in work. As soon as an employee goes off sick, the likelihood of them returning to the workplace is significantly reduced.”

Victoria Bullerwell, director of workforce and engagement for NTW Solutions, also believes in a proactive approach. “The vast majority of our employees are now being referred into occupational health while still in work. They’re given exercises and reasonable adjustments, so they can continue to work while they recover. It’s significantly reduced sickness absence and generated cost savings. Most of all employees feel cared for and able to go the extra mile, which they wouldn’t be able to do if they were in pain. It’s helping us to attract and retain people as our people know we value their wellbeing.”

For the full findings on the benefits of in-work referrals for reducing MSK absence, download the full report. It also features expert tips on how to take a more proactive approach and best practice case studies from M&S and NTW Solutions.

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