HR blames ‘pushover’ GPs for rising sicknote culture

Overworked GPs are contributing to UK plc’s long-term sickness absence
problems by signing people off work without proper consideration of whether
they are fit to do their jobs.

The problem, highlighted by a spate of letters from concerned Personnel
Today readers, has led to calls for more use of occupational health (OH)
clinics and specialists.

Paul Robertson-Marriott, HR director, Quebecor World (UK), said he had a
‘sick’ employee, who, having been signed off by a doctor, suddenly became ‘fit’
when a dismissal due to ill-health capability loomed.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the employee had
persuaded the doctor to change his ‘story’ to help the employee keep his
job," he said.

One major area of concern for employers is stress, with many feeling their
workers are being signed off based on little evidence, with no way of
challenging a doctor’s findings.

Sarah Kitley, HR manager at the Morgan Motor Company, is unhappy about the
issue.

"We have even had a case where ‘sick’ employees have been signed off
work, yet continued with outside interests, such as wedding photography, and we
were unable to do anything about it because it was seen to be stress
relieving," she said.

Charles Cotton, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development adviser,
urged the development of in-house OH schemes.

Dr Peter Holden, a member of a GP advisory panel to a Cabinet Office
investigation into reducing GP paperwork, said it is not a GP’s job to
investigate whether an employee is fit for work. "It is wrong that GPs are
used to police absence from work."

Holden said more firms should use ‘a proper occupational health advisory
service’.

By Quentin Reade

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