The government has named the company it has chosen to deliver a new service, designed to help employees and employers better manage sickness absence and reduce the costs involved.
Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said on 25 July that the Health and Work Service would be delivered by Health Management Limited, the UK’s leading occupational health provider. In Scotland, the Health and Work Service will be delivered by the Scottish government on behalf of the UK government.
According to government figures, an average of around 960,000 employees were on sick leave for a month or more each year between September 2010 and October 2013.
The Health and Work Service is designed to help employees on sick leave to return to work by providing them with an occupational health assessment when they reach, or are expected to reach, more than four weeks’ sickness absence.
Employees will normally be referred by their GPs and a return to work plan resulting from the referral will be shared with their employer and GP. More general health and work advice will be available to GPs, employers and employees via telephone and a website.
The service will be launched in late 2014 and is due to be fully rolled out by the end of May 2015. Lord Freud said: “The introduction of the Health and Work Service is an important step in supporting employees, GPs and employers to manage sickness absence better.
“Providing support where it’s needed most will help to reduce the length of time employees take off sick which, in turn, will cut sick pay costs, improve economic output and reduce the chances of people falling out of work and having to claim benefits.”
The government says that employers face an annual bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs while employees on sick leave miss out on £4 billion annually through lost earnings.
Meanwhile, the government spends around £12 billion a year on health-related benefits and £2 billion a year in healthcare and foregone taxes.