The seven steps to reducing back pain claims – Part 2

Our previous article gave the first five steps to reducing the incident of liability insurance claims for back pain caused by work activities. In this second part of the article we outline the steps to take if someone is absent from work with back pain. The final two steps are:

6. Use Active Case Management

Active Case Management is the process of getting people back to work as soon as it is safe for them to do so following an injury. For the employer the negative factors of just one employee being off sick increases sick pay costs, impacts the workloads of other employees and supervisors coping with a reduced team, and introduces the likelihood of expensive short term agency staff with lower productivity rates.

Simultaneously the injured employee can soon become cut off from daily contact with their work and suffer low mood, even depression plus earnings worries. To best manage the inevitable challenges of employee absenteeism due to injury, judge each case individually to find the best ‘route back to work’ for the individual to minimise the impact on them and the business.

7. Implement Best Practice Management of Absence Cases

Follow the recommended steps to ensure best possible outcomes for all absence cases:

  • A routine of regular phone calls to the employee to find out how they are and how their injury treatment is progressing and gently discussing their return to work plans.
  • During the first phone call say “I will phone you again next week to find out how you are feeling if that’s ok?” – this creates an expectation that you will call and you have obtained your employee’s consent to do so.
  • Nominate someone from HR or Occupational Health to oversee the employee’s case. They should define the injury or problem, arrange healthcare interventions such as physiotherapy as needed, develop a ‘back to work’ plan, establish clean communications with the employer, the employee and the healthcare provider.
  • Establish a desired return to work plan based on the individual criteria of each case. Include your Occupational Health team or someone from the ‘Fit for Work’ government scheme if your workplace has no OH team and the employee has been away from work for over a month.
  • Develop flexible options for the employee to return to work as soon as possible, such as part-time days or reduced hours, a phased return to work and exclusion from certain types of work or working from home until they reach full fitness again. Work itself is the best form of treatment and aids full recovery due to maintaining mobility, motivation and social contact for the injured employee.

By following the first five steps in Part 1 of this article and the actions outlined above in a systematic and through manner the incidence of employee back pain can be reduced and the likelihood of liability claims coupled with the cost of long-term absenteeism are minimised.

Further detailed information on managing absence and the return to work for employees experiencing back pain can be found in our Manual Handling Toolkit Guide 4 – Back Care.

For clients that have yet to experience our Manual Handling Toolkit, in addition to our guides, the toolkit provides:

  • a detailed Annual Management Review interactive pdf which assists clients with the identification of gaps in their management system.
  • an interactive pdf version of the full L23 Manual Handling risk assessment, along with
  • a cost benefit analysis tool.

If you require log-in details to access BusinessRisc and the Manual Handling Toolkit, please contact Nicola Vogel at

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