David Cameron has spoken out strongly about his intention to end Britain’s ‘sick note culture’ after being shocked by the figures contained in the latest review of sickness absence (the Review) by Dame Carol Black and David Frost. According to the Review, sickness costs the British economy £15b each year and causes a total of 140 million lost working days.
The Government believes that at least one in five of those who are on long term sickness absence should either never have been signed off work in the first place, or could go back to work. The Prime Minster is alarmed that businesses are being hit with a yearly bill of £9b because of the 300,000 people who are slipping out of work and on to sick pay and welfare benefits.
A report for Downing Street has suggested that three quarters of GPs admitted they had signed people off sick for reasons other than their physical health. Due in part to this revelation, Mr Cameron is strongly in favour of the creation of an independent assessment service to take over the job of assessing whether people should be signed off work on long term sickness absence, as recommended by the Review.
According to the Prime Minister:
“Every year more than 300,000 people fall out of work and on to health-related benefits. Many… fall ill, get signed off by their GP, their fitness isn’t checked again; and before they know it they’re on a conveyer belt to a life on benefits.
“Of course some of these people genuinely can’t work, and we must support them. That’s only fair. But it’s also fair that those who can return to work should be supported to do so. We need to end the something for nothing culture.”
These are fraught economic times (globally and for countries in Europe). EU member states such as Greece, Spain and Italy are struggling with mounting national debt and a battle to stay in the Euro, whilst Britain became the only EU member state last week to refuse to sign a new inter-Governmental accord designed to save the euro because of the Prime Minister’s fears that Britain would lose control over its own financial destiny.
In these difficult economic times it is more important than ever that jobs are created, and that people who are fortunate enough to have jobs actually manage to keep hold of them. Many businesses, particular the smaller ones, may struggle to see how they can have any major impact on what are essentially national and European problems, or may be too busy focusing on their own business’s survival to be overly concerned about what’s happening at a macro level. However, it is clear that employee health and productivity are inextricably linked and, therefore, that businesses whose employees’ sickness and absence issues aren’t effectively managed, are going to struggle to remain productive and profitable. Free, professional and expert guidance can be sought from the Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.