The government has recently announced that Health Management Limited will now be delivering the new Health and Work Service in England and Wales.
Between September 2010 and October 2013, nearly one million employees were on sick leave for a month or more each year. To help with the government’s long-term economic plan, it is hoped that this new Health and Work service will help employers and employees manage sickness absences more efficiently. The new service will see employees on sick leave undergo an independent health assessment once they have been absent from work for four weeks. The employee will be allocated an independent case manager who will oversee the assessment and will create a return to work plan for them. This will be shared with both the employer and GP. There will also be tax reliefs for any treatments recommended by the Health and Work Service or employer. Each employee will receive a tax exemption of up to £500 a year for medical treatments.
The service is expected to come into effect at the end of 2014 with all employers and employees adhering to the service by May 2015.
Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud stated, “Providing support where it’s needed most will help to reduce the length of time employees take off sick which, in turn, will cut sick pay costs, improve economic output and reduce the chances of people falling out of work and having to claim benefits.”*
This news has been welcomed by employers who are currently subject to an annual bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs. However, the service will also help employees not to miss out on lost earnings – it is currently estimated that employees miss out on £4 billion a year due to sustained absences from work.
The government predicts that this new service will cut sick pay costs to businesses by £80 million, which will bring significant savings, especially for SMEs.
Only time will tell how functional the service will be. However, any independent support concerning sick leave for employers and employees must surely be welcome?