Government to launch review into workplace sickness absence

The Government is to commission an independent review of workplace sickness absence, Personnel Today has learned.

The review, sponsored jointly by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), will be launched next week. While its scope is unclear, it is understood that it could include issues facing smaller businesses in providing occupational health services and dealing with sickness absence. The review may also examine rates and conditions of statutory sick pay and occupational sick pay.

Dame Carol Black, the Government’s national director for health and work and a former president of the Royal College of Physicians, is believed to be leading the review alongside David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The DWP, BIS, BCC and Dame Carol’s office have refused to comment at this time.

Dame Carol led a previous review into workplace health reforms in 2008, which was commissioned by the DWP and resulted in the introduction of the fit note.

The Working for a Healthier Tomorrow report, in which Dame Carol set out a number of proposals to help people suffering from ill-health return to or find work, said that the annual cost of sickness absence and worklessness associated with ill-health cost the UK more than £100 billion per year.

It introduced measures to make access to work-related health support available to all, such as a pilot fit-for-work service for patients in the early stages of sickness, which the Government said would run until “at least” March 2011, with the intention of extending it to those on incapacity benefits if the scheme was successful.

As a result of that review, fit notes replaced the previous sick note system in April 2010 and, according to research by XpertHR, employers have broadly accepted and supported the change.

Further guidance for employers on sick pay and sickness absence is available from XpertHR.

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