New deal for sick and injured

"Job-brokers" are set to persuade employers to take back injured,
stressed or sick employees

The Government is to introduce "job brokers" to persuade employers
to take back injured, sick or stressed employees.

Under the proposals, job brokers will intervene to persuade employers not to
sack staff who could continue to work after treatment but rather, to make
adaptations to the workplace or a change in their 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 initiative.

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 Department for Education and Employment 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 because of a
serious illness, back or muscle problem.

Human resources directors welcome the scheme, but stress that most already
re-employ staff who have been absent through sickness for six weeks.

Nicholas Taylor, HR director at Pizza Express, said, "The real
difficulties arise after very long periods of time, such as 14 months."

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