DCSIMG

Staff on long-term sick will face health check-ups

More than 130 million days a year are lost to sickness absence in Britain. Picture: Craig Stephen

More than 130 million days a year are lost to sickness absence in Britain. Picture: Craig Stephen

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

Scots workers face the prospect of health checks if they are off sick for more than four weeks, the UK government has said.

Up to 95,000 workers in Scotland were on sick leave for more than a month each year between October 2010 and September 2013, according to Department of Work and Pension figures.

Under the Health and Work Service (HWS) scheme, assessments will be carried out by occupational specialists to draw up a plan and timetable to get the patient back to work quickly.

Employees will be referred by a GP or their employer but the assessments are not compulsory.

Across Britain, about 960,000 workers were on sick leave for more than a month each year between October 2010 and September 2013, according to new figures released by the DWP.

The Scottish Government said it has been “working closely” with the DWP to develop and shape the HWS in Scotland, where it will be delivered by the NHS.

“Our proposal builds on existing occupational health capacity and expertise in the public sector in Scotland, while also delivering value for money,” a Scottish Government spokesman said.

More than 130 million days a year are lost to sickness absence in Britain, which has a substantial impact on workers, employers and taxpayers. Employers face a yearly bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs, with individuals missing out on £4bn a year in lost earnings.

Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning said: “As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, we are taking action to get people back into work. This is a triple-win.

“It will mean more people with a job, reduced cost for business, and a more financially secure future for Britain.”

It is aimed at cutting the time people spend off work by 20 to 40 per cent.

The new Health and Work Service will be funded by abolishing a compensation scheme for businesses paying long-term sick pay to their employees. Any financial loss to business from the ending of the PTS (percentage threshold scheme) is expected to be offset by a reduction in lost working days, earlier return to work and increased economic output created by the new scheme, the DWP said.

It is the latest move in the UK government’s bid to cut the country’s welfare bill after introducing new disability assessments and cutting benefits.

Around 300,000 people a year fall out of work and into the welfare system because of health-related issues, according to figures. It emerged two years ago that the average Scottish Government employee is off work sick more than six days a year.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the new scheme has potential, but warned that employees should not be pressured to return to work too early.

“Anything that helps workers recover from accidents or illness more quickly is welcome, and this service has real potential,” she said.

 

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