News and Support from The NASUWT
The Coalition Government has announced the creation of a new Health and Work service (new window), which from April will offer medical assessments and treatment plans to workers off sick for more than four weeks.
Under the plans, workers in England, Wales and Scotland who have been or are expected to be absent from work for four weeks or more can be referred to the service by their GP or employer for an occupational health assessment. This will examine the issues preventing an employee returning to work and will draw up a plan recommending the steps they, their employer and their GP need to take to get them back to work more quickly.
The assessments will be non-compulsory, meaning workers cannot be forced to participate.
The Government has presented the launch of the scheme as a crackdown on sickness absence, stating that the scheme’s aim is to cut the number of workers on long-term sickness absence and by doing so reduce the cost of sick workers to business and the economy. The Government has said that the reforms are expected to cut sickness absence by 20-40% and save employers £70 million a year.
The TUC has warned that the focus on reducing sickness costs must not be at the expense at improving workers’ health. It has raised concerns that workers may be pressured to return to work before they are well enough and has argued that employers will be free to simply ignore recommendations made in health assessments.
The TUC has also highlighted the fact that sickness absence is at its lowest level for over 20 years and that Britain’s sickness rates compare favourably with other European countries.