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More than half of employees surveyed say illness was not the reason for their most recent absence from work

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Absence & Disability Management / Canada

More than half of employees surveyed say illness was not the reason for their most recent absence from work

Findings come from a Morneau Shepell survey of employees, employers and physicians across Canada

TORONTO, April 1, 2015 /CNW/ - Fifty-two per cent of employees responding to a Morneau Shepell survey said the main reason for the last time they missed work was not because of illness.  At the same time, 33 per cent of employers responding did not list illness as one of the top three reasons why their employees are absent.

The findings were part of the Company's recent survey of employees, employers and physicians across Canada. The survey also indicated that 81 per cent of employers address the issue of absenteeism with performance management (e.g. issuing warning letters, etc.), and the majority indicated that unscheduled time off is a serious or extremely serious issue for their organization.

"Employee responses may give some indication of the need to take a more solution-focused approach  and address the root cause of absence instead of only policing it," said Paula Allen, Vice President of Research and Integrative Solutions at Morneau Shepell.

Employees in the survey who reported time off work due to non-medical reasons were more likely to report higher work-related stress. "It is evidence that work absence is a work issue. Yet a very common practice in organizations is to require a medical note to validate absence, with little if any other intervention," added Allen. "This really does not solve the problem, and may actually create different problems."

The physician respondents to the survey indicated there's limited value in providing medical notes. Only five per cent of physicians commenting indicated that medical notes reduce unnecessary absenteeism. Comments from physician respondents included: "I do not know if (the employee) was sick since they come to see me after they are better;" "Using the family doctor as police, in effect, may delay RTW (return to work) as patient waits until has note then returns to work;" and, "Truancy management is not a medical service."

When it comes to managing longer-term leave, Morneau Shepell's research found that almost half of physicians do not feel comfortable commenting on how health conditions impact work performance. At the same time, approximately three out of every four physicians indicated that workplaces need to do a better job in understanding this very issue and how they accommodate the limitations of employees with serious or chronic conditions. "This points quite clearly to a need for specialized expertise in workplace accommodations for employee health issues," said Allen. "Overall, the survey provides a clear message for employers that they would do well to rethink previously accepted practices in absence and disability management, and to leverage more workplace problem-solving and accommodation planning resources than relying so heavily on the family doctor."

Findings to be presented at Retail Council of Canada's Human Resources Conference

Kristen Coady, Director of Absence Management Solutions at Morneau Shepell, will be speaking about these findings and trends in absence and disability management at the Retail Council of Canada's Human Resources Conference on April 1, 2015.

Media are invited to attend the conference, which is occurring at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. For more information, please contact Heather MacDonald at or 647.725.2520 x207.

About the Survey

The Morneau Shepell survey, conducted in November and December 2014, was designed to be representative of the Canadian population of employees, employers and physicians. The margins of error for the survey are +/- 3.09 per cent for employees, +/- 9.7 per cent for physicians, and +/- 9.8 per cent for employers, 19 times out of 20.

About Morneau Shepell Inc.

Morneau Shepell is the largest company in Canada offering human resources consulting and outsourcing services. The Company is the leading provider of employee and family assistance programs, as well as the largest administrator of retirement and benefits plans and the largest provider of integrated absence management solutions in Canada. Through health and productivity, administrative, and retirement solutions, Morneau Shepell helps clients reduce costs, increase employee productivity and improve their competitive position. Established in 1966, Morneau Shepell serves approximately 20,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to some of the largest corporations and associations in North America. With approximately 3,600 employees in offices across North America, Morneau Shepell provides services to organizations across Canada, in the United States, and around the globe. Morneau Shepell is a publicly-traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: MSI). For more information, visit

SOURCE Morneau Shepell - Absence & Disability Management

For further information: Heather MacDonald, Kaiser Lachance Communications, 647.725.2520 x207,; Nathan Gibson, Morneau Shepell, 416.390.2641,