Almost a million workers off sick for more than a month

13 February 2014

The government has revealed that as many as 960,000 employees were on sick leave for a month or more each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013, and it is preparing to launch the new Health and Work Service to combat the problem.

We have mentioned the new Health and Work Service previously when discussing the abolition of the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS). The government agreed that in return they would use the funds saved on the provision, for a new health and work assessment and advisory service. The aim of the new service is to:

  • help employees who have been on sickness absence for 4 weeks to return to work
  • support employers to better manage sickness absence among their workforce
  • offer a work-focused occupational health assessment and case management to employees in the early stages of sickness absence
  • enable GPs to refer employees for assessment by the new service once they are absent, or expected to be absent, from work due to illness for four weeks.
  • enable employers to also refer employees
  • identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work through the work-focused occupational health assessment and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly
  • provide an advice service on the internet and telephone for anyone who needs it.

The government has already taken big steps in getting people on long-term sick benefits back into work as part of the government’s long-term economic plan, with almost a quarter of a million coming off incapacity benefits since 2010 – and almost a million who put in a claim actually have been found fit for work.

But more than 130 million days are still being lost to sickness absence every year in Great Britain and working-age ill health costs the national economy £100 billion a year.

Important facts on sickness absence:

  • employers face a yearly bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs with individuals missing out on £4 billion a year in lost earnings
  • around 300,000 people a year fall out of work and into the welfare system because of health-related issues
  • taxpayers fund around £13 billion a year on health-related sickness benefits and £2 billion a year in healthcare, sick pay reimbursement (PTS) and other taxes.