It was great news when the Coalition Government decided to look at what it could do to improve Britain's sickness absence record. It is an area of public policy that is important to get right if Britain is going to win the global race for business.
But this area of policy is not just about economics and business growth. The review was ultimately about how Government can best help employers and employees to tackle sickness absence in the workplace, and answering that challenge requires more than just income protection or benefits.
Early intervention is crucial and the benefits of this approach need to be consistently advocated in the industry. There is a key point at four weeks. If an intervention can be secured at this stage, then it is significantly more likely that someone will return to work sooner than they might otherwise.
That is why I am particularly pleased that the Government has recognized this in its response. By introducing the Assessment and Advisory Service, the government is acknowledging the benefits of early notification and also early intervention.
Of course, it is not just about the notification, it is crucial that the right quality and speed of intervention is then made to support a person return to work, if that is appropriate for them. I hope that the Assessment and Advisory Service is able to provide the right sort of interventions. On average 70% of long-term absent staff are able to return to work if the right support is delivered rapidly.
I welcome this course the government has plotted and look forward to seeing how the Department of Work and Pensions intends to take ahead these plans at the implementation stage.
I am particularly keen to see how new changes to the ‘Fit Note' system play out. One of the key ways of helping a person back to work is to have a good relationship between the people delivering the care and support, the employer and the employee. If changes to the fit note system help to improve the current support for all three parties involved in someone's rehabilitation, so much the better.
Jim Islam is the managing director of Legal & General group protection
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