A PIONEERING training scheme to help businesses reduce sickness absences by improving staff wellbeing will take place across Denbighshire.

In the wake of shock figures last year that revealed Wales has the highest sickness rates in the UK at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the region's economy each year, Rhyl City Strategy (RCS Wales) has launched a series of free workshops to teach businesses about how staff wellbeing affects productivity and how it can be improved.

They will also teach about how the costs of absences can be managed when they do happen.

The workshops are being run in Conwy, Denbighshire, Gwynedd and Anglesey and are the first to be launched under the social enterprise’s In Work Support (IWS) scheme, which will run until 2020 after receiving a grant from the £6.2m funding by the Welsh Government and EU to boost the North Wales economy.

20 firms took part in the first workshops during February in Llanrwst and Caernarfon, with more to be held in March in Denbigh, Llangefni and Colwyn Bay.

RCS operational director Alison Thomas said: “RCS wants to help business owners and managers create happier, healthier workplaces where their employees can thrive.

“It doesn’t have to be about large-scale changes, often just small improvements in the way things are done can make a big difference to how people feel at work. By taking an upfront approach to workplace wellbeing, employers can reduce absence and boost productivity – it’ll pay dividends in the long run.”

Latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows the lowest rate of UK sickness recorded was in London at 1.1 per cent, but workers in Wales recorded the highest rate at 2.7 per cent.

Claire Lynch, RCS training facilitator, believes one of the main reasons Wales has high absenteeism rates is because the economy relies heavily on the care and tourism sectors, which have the highest levels of sickness.

Ms Lynch said: “The workshop is not about employers singling out staff who have been off sick, but about enabling them to help prevent staff suffering high sickness levels in the first place.

“At the core of our workshops is the idea of engaging with staff, maintaining effective two-way communication and opening the door for staff to alert their bosses early about situations they feel are potentially affecting their health.

“The common cold and viral bugs are the biggest causes of short term sickness but coming a close second to that are musco-skeletal problems such as bad backs and necks, or mental health concerns like stress and exhaustion. These can be long term and cost employers a lot of money in reduced productivity.

“We want to help employers look out for the signs of both mental and physical health problems among staff and encourage them to act before they get to the stage of long term absenteeism."

In the two workshops RCS provides, 'Wellbeing Interventions for the Workplace' and 'Managing Sickness Absence', it offers ideas for improving overall staff wellbeing such as counselling support for bereavement or flexible hours to help staff meet their caring responsibilities.

Other solutions include group wellbeing training as an early intervention to prevent people going off sick, and one-to-one support.

Ms Lynch continued: “Different people need help at different times and not everyone reacts uniformly to the same to situations. Some may even continue attending work while physically ill but in the long run this could result in them having to take more time off. Employers need to look out for signs like this and address the situation promptly.

“North Wales has a high number of small businesses and start-ups which is excellent news in one way, but it also means that many of these business do not have and often cannot afford dedicated HR departments rehearsed in tackling the issues we have been discussing today.

“That is where RCS comes in because we offer free advice and information in this area, a means to help them overcome existing or potential HR hurdles. Our workshops upskill employers and employees and offer signposts towards useful avenues for help in the future.”

  • The Wellbeing Interventions for the Workplace workshop covers: the importance of wellbeing and how it impacts on performance, how the use of practical tools can increase wellbeing, how to enhance resilience and employee engagement.
  • The Managing Sickness Absence workshop covers how to reduce short-term absence, causes and costs of absence, and a model for dealing with absence.

The next workshops will be held on March 7, 12, 19 and 27 in Llangefni, Denbigh, and Colwyn Bay and there will be more throughout the year.

For more information or to book your place visit the RCS Wales website or email hello@rcs-wales.co.uk.