Long-term absence from work is increasing and the Fit Note is failing to deliver on its promise to get people back to work.
Those are among the key findings of EEF’s 2014 Sickness Absence survey.
Almost 40% of the 335 companies surveyed say long-term absence has increased in the past two years. More than half cite stress and mental health as a cause, with 20% saying it is the most common reason.
While the survey reveals overall absence levels to have dropped to 2.1% - or 4.9 days per employee per year – EEF believes this figures is masked by the fact that employers are much better at managing short-term absence.
Manufacturers also say they are seeing no positive benefit from the Fit Note and most believe the advice given by GPs remains poor. Fewer than one in five say the Fit Note has resulted in employees returning to work earlier; a third have not received which state the employee ‘may be fit for work’; and 40% say the Fit Note contains insufficient information to make suitable work adjustments.
EEF recommendations to policy makers include:
- Setting a deadline by which all GPs and medical professionals must be trained in use of the Fit Note.
- Setting a similar deadline by which the Fit Notes must be computer generated.
- Spending less than 5% of the £170m currently earmarked for the Health & Work Service on the training of all 40,000 UK GPs in Occupational Health.
- Making the Health and Work Service mandatory, not voluntary.
- Incentivising employers to offset treatment costs as an allowable business expense.