Government Review/Long Term Sickness Absence
In November 2011 the Government published the results of a review of sickness absence. The review recommends the creation of an Independent Assessment Service (IAS) which would assess whether people are fit to work when they have been signed off for four weeks, relieving GP’s of this task. According to the authors of the review, GP’s do not have sufficient time to perform in-depth assessment of individuals and they have not had training in occupational health which can make it difficult for them to make decisions on an individual’s ability to continue working
The proposed IAS would assess a person’s functional capacity and would make recommendations about a person’s ability to return to work immediately (or with work place adjustments) or whether the person is not fit to return to work at all.
The review believes that if the IAS is implemented that it would allow up to 20% of the 300,000 people currently off work in the UK to get back to work sooner and help reduce the £15 billion cost to the UK economy each year.
Other proposals of the review include:-
- The payment of Job Seeker’s Allowance rather than Employment Support Allowance (for a period of three months) to people who are signed off sick. This means that they would receive less money and would have to prove that they were looking for work;
- Tax incentives for firms to take on or retain staff with long-term conditions;
- Statutory Sick Pay record keeping obligations to be abolished, reducing the administrative burden for employers and saving an estimated £44 million; and
- Government-backed help to find a more appropriate job for those who can no longer do what they have been doing.
Daven Nagen, head of the Maples’ Employment Team commented as follows:-
“In theory this sounds great. From my experience of these matters GP’s do not have the time or skills to properly assess the ability of a patient to return to work (with or without adjustments) and many too often pander to the wishes of the patient. In turn such a patient can often drift into idleness, especially with the attractive State Benefits currently available. The IAS might just help to enable employers to manage staff absence more effectively. At the same time I am concerned that this might just be a money saving exercise which may become too punitive on employees and not ultimately look to their best interests.”
For further advice on this review and the possible implementation of the IAS please contact Daven Nagen on 01775 722261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him at 23 New Road, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE11 1DH