Combating sickness absence
Dealing with long term or persistent sickness absence, particularly when stress related, is one of the most difficult (and in terms of potential liability, one of the most risky) tasks for employers.
This difficulty has been a focus for the government for some years, a review of sickness absence having been undertaken in 2011. That review recommended that the government introduce a service to provide assistance to employers to assess an employee who has been absent due to sickness for four weeks or more; manage such absence and to facilitate return to work. As a consequence, the government is introducing the Health and Work Service. It will be phased in from late 2014 and fully functional by May 2015.
It is anticipated that employees will normally be referred by their GP. The service will provide:
- An occupational health assessment when an employee reaches, or is expected to reach, more than 4 weeks' sickness absence.
- A case manager to support each employee through the assessment process to ensure their level of need is correctly identified along with appropriate steps to get them back to work.
- More general health and work advice for GPs, employers and employees via the telephone and a website.
- A return to work plan that will be shared with the employer and GP.
- A tax exemption of up to £500 a year for each employee on payments for medical treatments recommended by the Health and Work Service, or an employer-arranged occupational health service.
Further information is available in the government’s press release which can be found here.