It is estimated that sick pay and staff absence cost British employers up to £9 billion every year.
In a bid to tackle this financial and operational millstone, the government is putting together a plan that will help both employers and employees manage sickness absence in the workplace.
Simon Bond, a specialist employment lawyer with leading West Midlands firm Higgs & Sons, says the plan centres largely on helping employees to return from sick leave by providing them with an occupational health assessment. The assessment would be activated when the employee reaches – or is expected to reach – four weeks’ sickness absence.
Simon said: “It is understood that GPs will refer absent employees to an independent occupational health service where a work plan will be devised.
“That plan would then be shared with the employer.”
The occupational health service would also provide wider support to employers and employees, such as telephone advice.
Simon said the service is likely to be rolled out later this year.
“The government has announced it will use Health Management Ltd to provide the occupational health services,” added Simon. “It is also understood that a tax exemption of up to £500 a year per employee will be introduced on payments made for treatments recommended by occupational health. This is to limit such payments being classed as a taxable benefit in kind and to encourage treatments to be provided where possible.”
For employers, he said, the changes demonstrate that the government is trying to tackle issues of absence in the workplace.
And for those employers who do not have any occupational health service in place, the scheme will provide clear access to such support, which should assist when managing absence.
“The changes will no doubt be welcomed although those employers with existing occupational health services in place may wish to retain them while the new service is evaluated further,” concluded Simon.
Higgs & Sons is based in the heart of the Black Country at the Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill. The growing team now numbers more than 200 people with 100 plus specialist lawyers available to support clients in a comprehensive range of business and private sectors.
For more information on employment related issues, please contact the employment team on 0845 111 5050.