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Government plans to abolish the sick note

Last week The Times reported on the Government scheme requiring anyone who is absent from work due to illness for more than four weeks to undergo a ‘fit-for-work’ test to clampdown on the "sick- note culture" costing the economy in excess of £9 billion each year. The scheme is being introduced in the hope that poor attendance due to long term sickness will be vastly reduced, along with the benefits received by employees for long periods of sickness.

The scheme is said to cost £134 million over a four year period and will be introduced to 20 surgeries before being rolled out nationally this spring.

GPs will be expected to refer patients to a third party company who will assess their ability to work and draw up a plan for their return. The Government and business leaders want the scheme to be mandatory but last week the British Medical Association said it would not comply with the new scheme if doctors felt it was forcing people back to work before they are fully fit.

Patients who agree to undergo the fit for work test will be assessed via telephone by a trained nurse or occupational therapist to establish their physical and mental abilities. They will then be provided with support and treatments ranging from physiotherapy and counselling to help with managing debt and workplace bullying.

Poor attendance and unauthorised absences cause considerable difficulty at work, placing extra pressure on colleagues covering for absentees, causing loss of productivity and work scheduling difficulties. These are in addition to the financial cost of excessive absence. Put together, poor attendance threatens business performance, and in turn, job security. For a free 2 minute guide to managing poor attendance click here.

In the case of frequent, short term sickness, where there is no acceptable medical reason, the matter should be treated as a conduct issue and dealt with under the disciplinary procedure. If the absence (short or long term) is due to genuine illness or disability then a very different approach is required. For help with managing absence (for whatever reason) contact us for advice.

Employer’s can and should request a medical report from an employee’s GP or specialist so they can fully understand the nature of an illness and how it affects the employee’s ability to work. The new scheme is for employees who’ve been absent from work for four weeks or more. Once a ‘fit-for-work test’ has been carried out, the theory is that employers will then be better able to make decisions on what action to take. Is this really possible from a telephone call? We’ll be interested to see the fall-out in Employment Tribunals from employers relying on these assessments to deal with an absence issues!

For further information or guidance on sickness absence or if you're thinking of outsourcing your HR why not contact myhrdept.co.uk today. With full service Premium Plus packages for medium sized companies typically from only a few hundred per month (and from only £100 per month for smaller companies and start-ups) and fixed price HR support options available for one-off issues, we believe we offer the best combination of quality and price available in the UK. Call us on 01628 820515 to discuss your requirements or email us here and we’ll call you back.

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