According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, around one third of workers admitted to having pulled a ‘sickie’ at some point in their careers.
The research showed that many absences were in fact preventable, and that employees who took unnecessary time off cost UK businesses £9billion a year. The most popular excuse for absences of the 2,000 adults interviewed was in fact having a hangover where 32% admitted to calling in sick due to the effects of a night out. In Scotland, it is estimated that 2.2million working days are lost every year through ill health
Since the end of January 2015, the UK government’s Fit for Work scheme is being rolled out in Scotland to help combat excessive sickness absences. The scheme entitles employees who are off sick for four weeks or more to a free medical assessment to try to support them back to work.
Fit for Work Scotland is a free advice and assessment service supporting employees, employers and GPs to manage a return to work. HR and law employment company, Empire, says employers using the Fit to Work service can save their businesses thousands of pounds.
Donna Gibb, operations director of Empire, said: “By using the Fit for Work service employers can ensure they take the correct steps when dealing with costly long-term absence and re-introducing staff into the workplace.
“Quality conversations between an employer and employee has positive effects on absence management. It is important for everyone to communicate and ensuring employers and employees understand what they expect from one another can reinforce that the return to work programme works efficiently.”
Below, Empire outlines the benefits of using the Fit for Work service:
What is Fit for Work?
The free, UK-wide service, which is designed to help employees stay in or return to work by providing occupational health assessments and general health and work advice, complements existing occupational health services, including in-house occupational health services, which may already be provided by employers.
Within Scotland, the service will be provided by the Scottish Government on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The service is applicable to employees who are likely to be off work for four weeks and agree to being referred for an assessment.
Employers and GPs can refer individuals to Fit for Work which will provide fast health and work advice online, over the phone or face-to-face. The employee will be referred for an occupational health assessment and a tailored return-to-work plan will be developed to help overcome any obstacles to returning to work.
Commencing in Scotland on 1 January 2015, the government has introduced a tax exemption of up to £500 per year, per employee, for medical treatments recommended to help employees return to work.
The Fit for Work service assists employers in managing absences more effectively. It encourages employers to organise return to work programmes for employees, ensuring staff feel more supported by the company when returning from longer absences.
By supplying this support to employees, return-to-work practices can be put in place much earlier to help ensure a smooth transition back to work. Employees with a return-to-work plan are more likely to come back sooner, and feel more able to settle back after an absence.