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Employment Law: Government report on sickness absences published

The Government has published a report into absences from work due to sickness in both the private and public sector. The report outlines recommendations to help reduce the amount of sickness-absences and in turn to reduce the yearly cost to taxpayers of £13billion.

Measures recommended in the report include offering tax breaks to firms who employ or take on people with long-term illnesses.

Also, rather than employees' GPs authorising their long-term absence from work due to sickness, the report recommends that an independent panel should review the employee's capability for work.

Professor Carol Black, who worked on the report, said: "What the GPs say is they don't have time to do an in-depth functional assessment and nor have they had any training in occupational health so we think it's providing a new unique service that both employers and GPs need."

People who are off work on a long-term basis should be found more appropriate jobs rather than be forced to rely on sickness benefits.

The report also stated that new employment laws should be introduced that would allow employers to dismiss staff on long-term sick leave without worrying about being sued for unfair dismissal, by giving them a one-off cash lump sum.

The current system which allows employers to claim a rebate for statutory sickness pay would be scrapped under the report's proposals, saving the Government around £50 million a year.

The report called for a review of public-sector sick-pay schemes that allow public-sector employees to be absent from work for up to six months on full pay. In the private sector a maximum of eight weeks on full pay was the average.

The authors of the report believe that with the new measures in place, 20% of those currently on long-term sickness absence would return to work.

The 113-page report will be responded to in January.

Do you think these sound like efficient measures that will get people back into work? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Related links:
Read more on the story (The Telegraph)
Contractual issues and dismissal in relation to sick pay and sickness (FindLaw)
Find local employment solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)