The government has announced plans to launch a new Health and Work Service aimed at tackling the problem of long-term sickness absence.
Approximately 960,000 employees were on sick leave for a month or more in each of the last three years. It has been estimated that employers face a yearly bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs whilst employees lose approximately £4 billion a year in earnings.
The Health and Work Service will be tasked with helping employees who have been off sick for more than a month to get back into work by providing a free work-focussed occupational health (OH) assessment to employees. It is expected that this scheme will mainly benefit small to medium sized employers who do not have access to in-house OH.
Employees referred to health specialists under the scheme will be assessed for fitness to return to work and given advice on treatment available to speed their recovery. Where an employer pays for treatment such as physiotherapy to aid an employee’s return to work they will get tax relief of up to £500.
It is hoped that the scheme will save employers £70 million a year and reduce the time people spend off work by 20-40% each year. The scheme is to be paid for by scrapping the Statutory Sick Pay Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS), which previously compensated employers that had to pay high levels of Statutory Sick Pay. The government expects that the savings made by getting employees back to work more quickly will even out losses incurred by certain employers through the scrapping of the PTS.
The government is hoping that the scheme can chip away at the 130 million days being lost to sickness absence each year, save money for employers and help sick employees get back to work.
You can read the announcement here.