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Sick notes cost britain £100 billion a year


The findings of the first ever review into the health of the working population shows that ill health is costing Britain a massive £100 billion ever year.

The cost is more than the annual budget of the NHS and is equivalent to the entire gross domestic product of Portugal.

Dame Carol Black, the director for health and work and publisher of the review Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, is calling for urgent and comprehensive reform and a new approach to health and work in Britain.

Black recommends that doctors' written sick notes should be replaced with electronic 'fit' notes, explaining what people are able to do when ill.

"The aim of my review is not to offer a utopian solution for improved health in working life, but to identify factors that stand in the way and offer potential solutions," she said.

Black spells out the key challenges in the review, which include insufficient access to good work-related health support in the early stages of sickness, including mental health conditions.

According to the report, provision is currently disproportionately concentrated among a few large employers, leaving the vast majority of small employers without support.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented on the report:

"There is currently insufficient support for people who are off work because they are ill or injured and the TUC agrees with Dame Carol that more needs to be done to encourage those on long term benefits back into the labour market. This is best done by doing more to prevent workplace accidents and illnesses, and by giving ill or injured workers early access to rehabilitation.

"In the UK millions of ill or injured workers are being dumped on benefits when they have treatable medical conditions, but often no access to treatment. Ministers need to come up with practical solutions based on prevention, early access to rehabilitation, and universal occupational health coverage. The Government must also look at how it can transform work into a more rewarding and less harmful experience, especially for the 2.2 million people who are currently suffering from an illness that was caused or made worse by their work.

"The TUC also recognises the need for 'good work' as emphasised in the report. But this will only happen if the government clamps down hard on employers who exploit their staff through bad conditions, long hours, or stressful workloads. That means more resources for the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities and other enforcement agencies, and stronger legal protection for agency, temporary and other vulnerable workers."

The TUC is pleased to see Dame Carol's report recognising the importance of union safety representatives in delivering on occupational health issues in the workplace, it said.

Beth Carruthers, Remploy’s director of employment services, commenting on the report said: “We support Dame Carol’s recommendation of a ‘wellness note’ which focuses on what a person can do as opposed to the difficulties they face. Individuals with disabilities already make a valuable contribution to the workplace, and many more would work if they had access to the right levels of employment support.

“We are pleased to see the report’s focus on mental health issues and on tackling the lack of recognition by employers to the full contribution that people with mental health conditions make to the workforce. Remploy has taken the lead on mental health and employment through its role as a leading partner on the Healthy Minds @ Work project. This project works with employers and employees, providing guidance and advice to both to help those with mental health problems return to work.

“It is critically important to improve health at work and to enable workers with health problems to stay at work. Remploy’s experience is that it is far easier to keep people with health conditions in the workplace than trying to get them back into the workplace once they have left. Early intervention is key to keeping Britain’s work force healthy and in sustainable employment.”


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