NHS Employers, the body representing health service staff, has called for new minimum standards for NHS employers for managing sickness absence to ensure they do more to support staff who are off sick.
The plan, outlined in October as part of a three-month consultation, would mean employers in England and Wales being given more guidance on issues such as how to offer employees phased return, redeployment to another job and access to services such as physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Line managers would also have to have much more clearly defined roles, making them responsible for recognising health problems at an earlier stage and taking more appropriate steps, including working with occupational health.
NHS Employers has also controversially suggested a two-tier payment system for ill-health retirement benefit for NHS staff.
Those who are unlikely ever to work again because of ill health would receive greater benefits than those who had a reasonable prospect of finding alternative work.
At the same time, it has been suggested that the financial incentives for employers to help staff to stay in work be overhauled by recharging them the cost of ill-health retirements by their staff.
NHS Employers ill health review project manager Jeremy Orr said: “What we are proposing to do is to significantly raise the standards required to manage long-term sickness in the NHS, and to ensure there is a clear link to the costs of ill-health retirement, to encourage good practice and prevent extra contribution costs to pension scheme members and NHS employers.”