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Overhaul of long-term sickness absence

The Government has published the results of an independent review of the sickness absence system, which recommends setting up a new Independent Assessment Service (IAS) to provide an in-depth assessment of an individual’s physical and/or mental function, once absence from work has lasted 4 weeks.

The review, ‘Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence’ argues that the current sickness absence system is failing, resulting in employers paying £9 billion a year in sick pay and associated costs, plus the indirect costs of managing business while people are off sick. To address these failings, the review makes a number of recommendations, the two principal ones being: (i) the creation of an IAS to provide an in-depth assessment of individuals’ physical and/or mental function when they have been signed off work for 4 weeks; and (ii) fit note guidance should be revised to ensure that judgements about fitness to work are not job-specific. The review’s authors believe that a reformed system could save £400m a year for employers and up to £300m a year for the State, and boost economic output by up to £1.4bn. The Government will respond to the review in due course.

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