Tax breaks should be offered to companies that provide good-quality rehabilitation services to help the long-term sick back to work, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has insisted.
The institute’s workplace health adviser Ben Willmott said government efforts to get the long-term ill off benefits and back to work risked being undermined by employers’ low-level provision of occupational health or vocational rehabilitation services.
A CIPD absence management survey revealed today that just 48% of private sector firms offered such services, compared to 84% of employers in the public sector.
However, it takes more than two months on average before an employee in either sector is referred to a workplace specialist, hindering their chances of a successful return.
Willmott said: “The government could make a real difference by providing tax incentives to encourage more employers to use occupational health and vocational rehabilitation services.”
He added that the recommendations from Dame Carol Black’s review of workplace health, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow – which included a ‘Fit for Work’ system to tell bosses what an employee can do, rather than what they can’t – should be implemented as soon as possible.
Public sector absence has fallen from an average of 10.3 days per worker per year to an average of 9.8 days, the survey found. The average private sector absence remained static at 7.2 days, while voluntary sector absence fell from 9.6 to 8.7 days.