A new independent assessment and advisory service aimed at getting people back to work and away from long-term sickness benefits has been announced by the Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud has announced.
The Government says the scheme will save employers up to £160 million a year in statutory sick pay and increase economic output by up to £900 million a year.
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Currently, it says, only 10 per cent of employees of small firms have access to an occupational health service, compared with more than half of staff in larger firms. The new service aims to enable employers of all sizes to access expert advice to help them manage sickness absence in the workplace.
The Government says the new initiative will ensure employers receive bespoke, independent advice for cases of sickness absence lasting more than four weeks.
The Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said: “Long-term sickness absence is a burden to business, to the taxpayer and to the thousands of people who get trapped on benefits when they could actually work.
“So for the first time, all employers, big or small, will have access to a service that offers the early support they need to keep people in work and fulfil their aspirations.”
The independent occupational health assessment and advice service is expected to be up and running in 2014.