Commenting on the Sickness Absence Review, published today by the Department for Work and Pensions, Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“Sickness absence accounts for more than 300,000 people being out of work each year, costing employers and taxpayers tens of billions of pounds. Business will welcome the pragmatic approach being taken to tackle what is a very complex problem, and will push government for bold implementation of the Review’s recommendations.
“In particular, an independent health advice service has the potential to support employees, employers and GPs by offering expert advice to all parties, while encouraging them to communicate. A telephone triage system combined with face-to-face support, where needed, would offer an economical, yet effective solution.
“Employees will be relieved to hear that valuable Employee Assistance Programmes will continue to attract tax relief, as this acknowledges the role they play in keeping people well and in work. In addition, the Treasury should accept the recommendation to allow employers to pay for medical interventions without imposing tax on the affected employee. There is time to agree this before the 2013 budget, and both employers and employees will be disgruntled if the decision is not made by then.
“Employers will not be pleased by the abolition of the Percentage Threshold Scheme, but will be willing to accept it if the other recommendations are implemented in full, and without delay. Businesses are also concerned about allowing Universal Jobmatch to assist an absent member of staff find a new job as this could see government treading on employers’ toes.”
“On the government’s response to sickness absence in the public sector:
“Sickness absence in the public sector remains significantly higher than in the private sector, and the government’s response must address this costly problem. Ministers should set hard targets across the public sector to match the best performing departments, and hold senior managers accountable for it.”