A new scheme being set up by the government will see people off sick for longer than four weeks being offered advice to get them back to work more quickly.
The Health and Work Service will cover England Wales and Scotland and offer non-compulsory medical assessments and treatment plans. It will be run by the private sector and be paid for by scrapping compensation to employers for statutory sick pay.
Ministers have said that employers will save money overall as fewer staff will be off sick and that it may save companies up to £70m a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs, reports the BBC.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions minister, Kate Green, said: “Any help to cut number of days lost to sickness is welcome, but with the government’s Work Programme helping just 5% of people on sickness and disability benefits into jobs, it is clear much more needs to done to help people get back to work.”
Currently staff off work for longer than four weeks are considered to be long-term sick and entitled to Statutory Sick Pay of almost £90 per week from their employers. Under the new arrangements this will not change, however the government hopes that the Health and Work Service will cut the number of people on long-term sick leave.
Under the scheme, employers or GPs will be able to refer employees for a work-focused occupational health assessment. It is intended to identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their GP and their employer by recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.
The scheme is not compulsory and workers will be allowed to refuse assessment or follow any course of action or treatment recommended.
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