The vast majority of HR managers at larger firms have no confidence in the government's new Health and Work Service (HWS) despite it not being formally launched, a survey finds.
Research from PMI Health Group of 58 medium to large employers found that 86% were not confident the service would fulfil their occupational health (OH) requirements, although 81% of companies questioned already provided staff and management with access to an occupational health service.
WSB revealed the Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) expected plans for the HWS in November.
However, it is anticipated that the service will launch in stages across the country from October, while it is likely to be tailored to those firms without OH services at present.
This was highlighted at the Autumn Statement where the government extended the £500 tax relief for employer funded return to work treatments to include all those arranged by employer OH services, not just those recommended by the HWS.
PMI Health Group director Mike Blake said: "The health and work assessment and advisory service could be a step in the right direction. However, given a majority of employers already provide access to an OH service, the suggestion is they have adequate processes in place.
"The government service will only provide advice to employers when staff have been absent for more than four weeks, so will not help them in monitoring the ongoing health of their staff and developing preventative methods to reduce absence.
"Although advice from the government service could help in returning staff to work, it may struggle to provide the kind of in-depth insight that comes from a knowledge of each specific case, a relationship with HR, the working environment and an understanding of an employee's health background. This is perhaps why a majority of HRs look to refer staff to an occupational physician in cases of both long and short-term absence," Blake added.
This was illustrated in other findings from the survey, which found a third (33%) of HR managers also claimed to consult an occupational physician in every case of long-term absence, with a further 53% doing so occasionally.
In cases of short-term absence, 12% always referred employees to an occupational physician and 59% did so occasionally.
And when seeking advice from a GP about employee absence, only 9% of HRs regularly found the advice given to be useful.
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