The British Safety Council welcomed the launch of the Government’s Health and Work Service, which will offer non-compulsory medical assessments and treatment plans to those sick and off work for more than four weeks.
The Health and Work Service scheme will apply to England, Wales and Scotland.
At present, staff who are off work for more than four weeks are considered to be long-term sick and entitled to Statutory Sick Pay of almost £90 per week from their employers. This will not change. Under the scheme, employers or GPs will be able to refer employees for a work-focused occupational health assessment.
This 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, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly. This may include fitness for work advice, medical care, working from home or retraining.
The scheme, which it is estimated will save companies up to £70m a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs, is not compulsory. Workers will be allowed to refuse to be assessed or to follow any course of action or treatment recommended.
Alex Botha, chief executive of the British Safety Council, said: “This latest initiative is a valuable contribution in helping to address the issues preventing employees returning to work. It is important to remember that prevention is better than cure. So the focus should remain on preventing sickness absence in the first place. The British Safety Council will continue to play its part in gathering the evidence concerning the real cost of injury and ill health at work and the benefits to business that result from putting place sensible and proportionate measures to manage risks to health and safety.”
Alex went on to say: “Many of our members have extensive experience on how to prevent and manage sickness absence by, for example, putting in place stress management standards, implementing effective wellbeing programmes that tackle lifestyle issues and by the leadership their organisations model to help improve the health and safety culture in their workplaces.
“The benefits to the business of managing occupational health and wellbeing effectively can be shown in various ways including a reduction in sickness absence per employee, reducing lost production time, savings in insurance premiums, lower labour turnover and reduced liability and reduced legal costs. We published a guide to assist businesses in doing this in 2013 called ‘The business case of OSH interventions’.
“We will continue our work with and support our members, large and small, to promote better understanding and sharing of good practice of occupational health management.”
Guide to OSH interventions
‘The business case of OSH interventions’ guide is available from the British Safety Council at: https://www.britsafe.org/products/business-case-health-safety-interventions-guide