York City Council has become the first public body in the UK to introduce a sickness absence management strategy that manages and monitors staff health and wellbeing.
In the battle to reduce its level of staff absenteeism, York City Council is using experienced nurses to handle calls from employees who report in sick.
The scheme, run by health and wellbeing provider Active Health Partners, is intended to manage the causes of absence and enable an early return to work.
It will be trialled for three months in the council's Adult Services department after it was found that absence due to staff sickness cost this single department £2.3 million in 2003/04.
The company claims that it will see a sharp improvement in staff attendance levels and in turn, a healthier work force and increased productivity.
Active Health Partners, which has worked with local authorities in Scandinavia, will alert the employee's manager and supply statistics about absence to the council as required.
Further follow-up calls will be made by Active Health Partners' staff to check on the employee's progress and to offer advice if the symptoms persist.
Stephen Forrest, York council's human resources services manager, was enthusiastic about the plan: "Studies have shown that offering people advice and support in this way means that they are able to return to work more quickly.
"Clearly, this eases the pressure on colleagues who have had to cover for them during their absence and saves the council money.
"It makes people feel more supported and helps to ensure that they are receiving the care that they need. This is something that a line manager couldn't help with because they wouldn't have the medical knowledge."