Sickness absence has a big impact on the productivity of British businesses, with absences over four weeks accounting for 20% of sick days in the UK.
The government believes too many people are on long-term sick and from 2015 will launch a new service to help businesses like yours get employees back into work.
Small businesses are often at a disadvantage, compared with larger firms, when dealing with long-term sickness because they do not have the same access to occupational health service (currently, only 10% of employees in small firms have access to this).
The Health and Work Service is billed as an independent assessment service for small businesses to help them access expert advice and manage sickness absence in their own workplace. Unfortunately it has come at the expense of the Percentage Threshold Scheme, which was scrapped back in April. Under the scheme employers could claim back a percentage of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for employees on long term sick leave, but this has now been removed. The deadline for any PTS claims for the 2013/14 financial year is 1st April 2016.
What will the Health and Work Service do?
The government is promising 'bespoke, independent advice' for cases of sickness absence lasting more than four weeks. It is hoped that this approach will help to stop thousands of people falling out of work and onto long-term sickness benefits, therefore relieving the burden not just on employers but on the taxpayer also.
It is expected that the scheme could save employers on the whole up to £70 million a year in statutory sick pay and increase economic output by up to £900 million a year.
The new service is part of a series of measures announced by the government to help employers support their staff and prevent employees needlessly going onto sickness benefits, and it is part of the Government's response to the recommendations of health and business experts Dame Carol Black and David Frost made back in 2011.
Under the current system of ‘fit notes', the vast majority of notes declare employees to be unfit for work, where they may in fact be able to perform some work; something that Dame Black referred to as the ‘sicknote culture'.
"What [we] found in our Review is that far too many people with potentially manageable conditions – like stress or back pain – are effectively being signed off work for life, sliding from a short spell of sickness absence to a life of long-term benefit dependency", said Dame Black.
The scheme is being rolled out throughout 2015. More information and details on how to access the service can be found at www.fitforwork.org.
There will also be a tax exemption of up to £500 a year per employee on medical treatments recommended by the service.
Get further information on dealing with absence in the workplace. To find out how the Forum can help you manage HR in your workplace through our helpline, insurance and practical guides, call us now on 0845 130 1722.
The government believes too many people are on long-term sick and from 2015 will launch a new Health and Work Service to help small businesses like yours get employees back into work.