At this time of the year what with norovirus, ‘flu and other bugs around, together with post Christmas party hangovers and surreptitious shopping days being taken – unscheduled absence is a real problem for organisations across the UK. So today I thought I would revisit the Government’s independent review of sickness absence and see whether the recommendations have been implemented and what employers are doing to help manage this kind of absence.
According to the Department of Health, employers are spending around £9 billion in sick pay and related costs and over 140 million working days a year are lost to sickness absence.
The Government’s review ‘Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence’ which was commissioned in November 2011 looked at how employers and the State could share the costs of sickness absence and made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the existing system. The review claimed that the reformed system of sickness absence management it advocated would save employers £400 million per year, the State £300 million a year and boost economic output by up to £1.4 billion.
In April 2010 the Government decided the old ‘sick note’ was not ‘fit’ for purpose and replaced it with the ‘fit note’. The idea being to improve rates of return to work by including a ‘may be fit’category – where doctors had the choice of advising patients that they were fit for a ‘phased’ return to work if their employer could work with them. There’s been a very mixed response to the ‘fit note’ (which I covered in my blog ‘Are Fit Notes Sick?’)– particularly from Doctors who understandably don’t have the time, or the knowledge of people’s job, workplace etc to be able to give any guidance and so err on the side of caution or simply leave it to the employee to make the judgement call as to whether they are fit for work.
The review suggested that, for longer term sickness absence, an Independent Assessment Service should be set up. The service would be provided by approved health professionals, subject to quality controls and could be accessed if a person reached a certain time-threshold of absence by either a doctor or the employer. I can see it would have to be a system that would be accepted as fair and used consistently or there would be some pretty harsh criticism.
Other incentives were also recommended including favourable tax implications and new insurance products aimed at encouraging attendance and reducing the cost of absence.
It all seems too hard to me, and we are still waiting to see what the Government’s response to the review has been, but in the meantime I will refer you to my previous blog which talks about the 10 Top Tips to Reduce Absence and remind everybody that you can’t manage something that is not measured.
Happy Christmas Everyone!