In February the government called for a major review of the sickness absence system to help combat the 140 million days lost to sickness absence every year. The review has been published.
It presents an important analysis of the:
- Sickness absence system
- Impact of sickness absence on employers, the state and individuals
- Factors that cause and prolong sickness absence
The review also provides a critique of the current system and the roles that healthcare professionals, employers and government services play. This is an important contribution to our understanding of the sickness absence system and the reviewers offer challenging and new insights into this complex problem as well as a number of recommendations.
Each year around 11 million employees take sick leave and while most people return to work around 300,000 people go on to claim health-related benefits. This is a huge loss in human potential.
Evidence strongly suggests that work is good for health and in many cases can aide recovery – but the independent review has found that too often the sickness absence system pushes people away from work and provides little support for them to return to work quickly.
Co-author Carol Black says, "Sickness absence from work can be unavoidable, but when unduly prolonged it is wasteful and damaging. We believe we have presented an urgent and compelling case to change the current system so that it unashamedly promotes work for those that can. If implemented these recommendations will ensure many more people with health conditions are able to enjoy the benefit of work; far fewer will needlessly lose work and fall into long-term benefit dependency."