Doctors slam employers’ ‘cop out’ over sicknotes

The presumption that doctors will sort out absence management problems is “a cop out” by employers who should be doing more to tackle the issue, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

Dr Peter Holden, chairman of the professional fees committee at the BMA, called on the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to address sickness in the workplace.

“It’s a cop out. The government would like you to believe that we [general practitioners] can provide an occupational health service to employers. But we can’t. We don’t have enough staff,” Holden said.

Sickness absence cost UK employers a total of £13.2bn last year, or £531 for every employee, according to the CBI’s annual survey.

Holden said businesses were responsible for the sicknote epidemic, with work-related stress “almost always down to poor management”. Doctors should not be held accountable for the crisis in sickness levels, Holden told delegates at the Symposium Events absence management conference last week.

“We are not here to back up the excuse culture in society,” he argued.

He said the public sector was the worst offender and called for the “demolition of the public sector belief that sick leave is a right”.

Stephen Alambritis, head of parliamentary affairs at the FSB, admitted that there were major issues with the current sicknote system.

“There is a criticism that GPs give out sicknotes like confetti,” he said. But he added that the FSB would be happy to discuss the issues.

A spokesman for the CBI said the organisation had no immediate plans to discuss the matter with the BMA.

Who does the government think should be responsible?

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