Sickness absence can be reduced with employers’ help with rehabilitation

The vast majority of workers with health problems can be helped back into employment with simple support, according to research.

A review into vocational rehabilitation found that more than 90% people with health problems could be helped to return to work by following a few principles of good healthcare and workplace management.

This had the potential of reducing long-term sickness absence and the number of workers going on to long-term incapacity benefit by up to 60%, the research by the University of York concluded.

Government welfare reforms announced last month included proposals to give people more support through a back to work programme to address their health and skills needs.

Work and pensions secretary James Purnell said: “This evidence shows working can be an important step in people’s recovery. We are looking at how we can work with employers to make sure people get the support they need in the workplace. We have proposed doubling the amount of money we make available to employers to adapt the workplace to accommodate employees with specific needs.”

Further research showed that having a job may actually help with the recovery of people with mental health problems. Poor mental health is one of the most commonly cited reasons for claiming incapacity benefit the government has pledged to get one million people to stop claiming incapacity benefit by 2015.

Employers who took part in the study said they were keen to learn more about mental health issues, and would welcome more contact with GPs about individual employees with mental health problems so they could make better plans for their return to work.

The government also announced £96m in funding over the next three years to improve the healthcare and employment prospects for people with learning disabilities.

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