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Sickness absence system to undergo a health check

The Government has announced that the current employee sickness absence system is to be the subject of a comprehensive review.

The main remit of the review will be to examine how the system can be reformed so that more people can be helped to stay in work and costs for employers can be reduced. Due to report later this year, the review will also examine whether the balance of the costs of sick leave is appropriately shared between individuals, employers and the state.

Employment Relations Minister, Edward Davey said: “Managing sickness absence more effectively will be a win-win situation for all – businesses, individuals, the taxpayer and, crucially, the economy.”

The EEF, manufacturing employers’ group, argued that, despite the recent introduction of the fit note, many barriers still remain to getting people back to work. And that while large firms often have access to occupational health support, the same is often not true for SMEs. In particular, EEF wants the review to ensure that private treatment to speed up rehabilitation is not treated as a taxable benefit as it is now; and that GPs continue to assess work-related needs when issuing fit notes.

The EEF’s chief medical adviser, Professor Sayeed Khan said: “The replacement of the sick note with a ‘fit note’ has been positive by improving communication between GPs and employers. We now need to maintain this momentum by helping medical professionals take into account the part work plays in good health as well as providing smaller employers with ready-access to appropriate treatments such as physiotherapy.”