Government declares war on the long-term sick

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As many as 100,000 employees in Yorkshire and the Humber were on sick leave for a month or more each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013.

The figures revealed by the Government as it prepares to launch a new Health and Work Service to combat the problem showed that the figure was almost a million (966,000) across Britain.

Minister of State for Work and Pensions, Mike Penning, said: “More than 130 million days a year are lost to sickness absence in Great Britain, which has a substantial impact on workers, employers and taxpayers.

“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.”

The Government says it wants to do more to “support business to prevent sickness absence turning into long-term welfare dependency in the first place by setting up a new support service”.

This is because it says:

* Employers face a yearly bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs with individuals missing out on £4 billion a year in lost earnings.

* Around 300,000 people a year in Great Britain fall out of work and into the welfare system because of health-related issues;

* Taxpayers fund around £13 billion a year on health-related sickness benefits and £2 billion a year in healthcare, sick pay reimbursement (PTS) and other taxes.

The Health and Work Service will offer a work-focused occupational health assessment and case management to employees in the early stages of sickness absence.

GPs will be able to refer employees for assessment by the new service once they are absent, or expected to be absent, from work due to illness for four weeks. Employers can also refer employees.

The work-focused occupational health assessment will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.

The plan will include a timetable for a return to work, fitness for work advice, as well as signpost to appropriate help. Employees will be supported throughout their time with the service, so they can return to work as soon as they are able to.

It will also provide an advice service on the internet and telephone for anyone who needs it.