HR professionals want GPs to continue issuing sicknotes

Most HR professionals want GPs to continue issuing sick-notes, even though
they worry they are still signing people off too easily, research by the
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development is set to conclude.

The survey of 1,110 UK employers, which is due to be published on 6 July, is
expected to show that most have seen an increase in stress-related absence over
the past year.

Overall absence levels are likely to show an increase, echoing May’s CBI/AXA
absence survey, which showed the total number of working days lost to absence
rising for the first time since 1989.

GPs are increasingly fed up with issuing sicknotes and are looking to have
made progress towards giving up responsibility for sickness certification by
April 2006.

If GPs do give it up, the HR professionals polled said they would prefer to
see it administered by specialised NHS health centres or transferred either to
commercial or NHS OH providers. This is despite the fact that OH practitioners
have expressed doubts about whether the profession has the capacity or skills
to take on such a role.

The survey is also expected to show that back pain, musculoskeletal
injuries, acute medical conditions, stress and mental ill health are the
leading causes of long-term absence for manual workers. For non-manual workers,
it is stress and mental ill health.

Workplace stress is identified as a growing cause of absence, with a
majority of the employers polled experiencing an increase in the past year.

But most are responding to the problem, with 77 per cent taking steps to
identify and reduce it.

The main causes are workload and management style or relationships at work,
but employers complain they find it hard to define and identify stress.

By Nic Paton

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