According to drafts of the Government’s ‘Independent Review into Sickness Absence’ by Dame Carol Black (UK National Director for Health and Work) and David Frost (the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce), which is due to be published soon, GPs should be relieved of the task of signing employees off on long term sickness.
The report will recommend the creation of a new independent assessment service which would assess whether people are too ill to work.
According to the authors of the review, GPs do not have sufficient time to perform in-depth assessments of individuals, and they haven’t 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 assessment service would assess a person’s functional capacity and would make recommendations about a person’s ability to return to work immediately (or with workplace adjustments), or whether the person is not fit to return to work at all.
Dame Carol Black and David Frost, who were asked to consider radical changes to deal with the human and financial cost of sickness absence in the workplace in their new review, hope that this new service, if implemented, would allow up to 20% of the 300,000 people currently off work in the UK to get back to work sooner. This would help reduce the £15bn cost to the UK economy each year due to lost economic output.
Other changes expected to be recommended in the report include:
- tax incentives for firms to take on or retain staff with long-term conditions;
- the payment of Job Seekers’ Allowance rather than Employment Support Allowance (for a period of three months) to people who are signed off sick. This means they would receive less money and would have to prove they were looking for work;
- Government-backed help to find a more appropriate job for those who can no longer do what they have been doing.
For guidance on helping your staff get back to work after illness, or for advice on any employee health matter, call the Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44. The Black/Frost report will be available on the Health for Work Adviceline website once it has been published.