‘Brokers’ to help firms take back sick or stressed staff

The Government has announced
plans to introduce a "job broker" scheme to persuade employers to
take back injured, sick or stressed employees.

Under the proposals, the
brokers will intervene and persuade employers not to sack staff who could
continue to work after treatment, adaptations to the workplace or a change of
job description.

Rehabilitation clinics and
employment specialists from the private sector and NHS trusts will compete to
run pilot job broker schemes, as part of the Government’s New Deal for Disabled
People. They will also encourage employers to provide curved keyboards, bigger
computer screens, ground floor offices and flexible hours to allow clinic
visits or retraining.

Ministers believe the scheme
could help reduce the massive costs incurred by the Government and business
through long-term sickness. It cost business £10.7bn last year in statutory
sick pay and wages, according to a CBI survey.

The scheme will cost £12m and
the Government hopes it will reduce the £7bn cost of long-term disability
benefits.

Research by the DfEE has shown
there is a six-week cut-off point when employees are more likely to be
dismissed. Each week 17,000 people reach their sixth week of absence due to a
serious illness, back or muscle problem.

Nicholas Taylor, HR director at
Pizza Express, welcomed the scheme but stressed that most employers would
already re-employ staff who have been absent through sickness for six weeks. He
said, "The real difficulties arise after very long periods of time, such
as 14 months."

The Department of Social
Security spent £25bn on sickness and disability benefits, of which incapacity
benefit cost about £6.8bn.

By
Richard Staines

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