Seven steps to reducing sickness absence

workplace sicknessIf you run a business or manage people, the Government’s plans for reducing sickness absence in the workplace, particularly absences over four weeks, will affect you.

The changes follow an independent review of the sickness absence system in Britain, and aim to keep people in work and reduce costs for employers and the State.

The table below provides a brief summary of the planned changes. For a more in-depth explanation see Sickness Management.

 Change What is intended? How will it work?
1. Health and Work Assessment and Advisory Service A Government initiative to deliver state-funded occupational health assessment for employees. To be set up next year. Typically activated once an employee has been on sick leave for 4 weeks. GPs required to refer patients.  Initial telephone assessment to result in a report indicating expected return to work date.
2. Tax relief Existing tax relief on Employee Assistance Programmes to be retained to encourage early intervention in sickness absence. A tax incentive for employers who provide such programmes for employees.
3. Fit notes Revision of guidance for GPs, clarifying what information should be on a fit note so that it is of more use to employers. New guidance has been issued for GPs, clarifying that the advice and assessment provided by them should refer to patient’s general fitness to work and not be job specific.
4. Health professionals Increase healthcare professionals’ knowledge and awareness of the benefit system, and the importance of work to health. Government to build on GP’s guide to benefits system and training by exploring new approaches including GP education on mental health and employment.
5. Sick pay Sick pay to be correctly applied in all organisations. Government to commission research to explore sickness absence management and sick pay regimes.
6. Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) PTS to be abolished as it provides no incentive for employers to pro-actively manage high rates of sickness absence. Funding to be recycled into the new Health and Work Assessment and Advisory Service.
7. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Current record keeping requirements to be revised. Employers will be able to keep records in a more flexible manner, providing that they comply with PAYE regulations.

Sickness Management is from The RoSPA Occupational Safety & Health Journal, which is available free to RoSPA Members.

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