five month tender process, on 25th July 2014 it was announced that
the government’s new Health and Work Service in England and Wales will be
provided by Health Management Limited, a MAXIMUS company. The company is the
UK’s largest independent occupational health provider.
government has reported that 960,000 employees were on sick leave for a month
or more each year on average between September 2010 and October 2013. It is reported
that nearly one million employees a year reach the four-week sickness absence
point which requires the state to spend around £12 billion a year on the
health-related benefits and £2 billion in foregone taxes. Employers face an
annual bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs.
It is still
anticipated that the service will launch in late 2014 and will be rolled out in
phases until May 2015. The service intends to assist employers and employees in
managing sickness absence. If an employee is expected to be absent or is absent
due to sickness for more than four weeks they will be helped to return to work
by providing them with an occupational health assessment. An employee will
normally be referred by their GP and a return to work plan developed to share
with their employer and GP.
Welfare Reform Lord Freud has said “Providing support where it is 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”.
will be welcomed by employers as long term ill-health absence is often very
disruptive and can be difficult to predict. Mistakes can also be very costly
for employers due to potential disability issues. Clear direction in the form
of a return to work plan is therefore a good starting point. The success of the
initiative will however be tested in how informative and proactive the reports
are at getting employees back to work quickly and whether sufficient investment
is made in supporting the service, especially if GPs err on the side of caution
and there are more referrals than anticipated.