In 2011 a review of workplace sickness absence was carried out by Dame Carol Black, the Government's national director for health and work, and David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce.
The Government has responded to that review by announcing that it will introduce a new independent assessment and advisory service in order to address sickness absence and get employees back to work.
This is likely to be in place by 2014. The service will offer a health assessment for employees who have been absent from work for four weeks or longer, as well as a case management service for employees with complex needs.
It will also offer a "universal job match" service for employees who might be able to work, but not necessarily in their existing role or for their current employer.
It is currently estimated that only 10% of employees at small organisations have access to an occupational health service, compared with more than 50% of staff in larger organisations. The new service should help overcome that disparity by enabling employers of all sizes to access expert advice to help them manage sickness absence in the workplace.
It is hoped that this measure, along with more support for healthcare professionals, will reduce costs to business and prevent people needlessly going onto sickness benefits.
In particular, the Government will issue revised fit note guidance for GPs, employers and individuals and this is likely to happen during the first quarter of this year. The fit notes will be required to address health in relation to work in general and not just one specific role.
The Government will also abolish the statutory sick pay record keeping requirements which will enable employers to keep records in a more flexible way which suits their business ? and for a shorter period of time.
Read the Government's response to Dame Black and Mr Frost's independent review of sickness absence on the Department for Work and Pensions website. Although lengthy at 80 pages, there is a very useful Summary at Appendix 1.
If you'd like legal advice regarding workplace sickness absence, get in touch with our employment team.