Sickness review could force ill workers back too soon, says TUC

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date: 21 November 2011

embargo: For immediate release

Commenting on the review of sickness absence carried out by Dame Carol Black and David Frost published today (Monday), TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'The current method of sickness absence certification and pay is not in need of a major overhaul. Unions are concerned that however well-intended this report, there is a danger it will be seized upon by some rogue employers as an excuse to force people back to work before they are good and ready.

'The report, while very limited in its remit, recognises that the current sick pay scheme is broadly fit for purpose, but makes a number of recommendations in respect of job-brokering and an independent assessment system which could be used to force sick and injured employees back to work far sooner than is good for their health.

'While employers need more advice and support in dealing with sickness absence, the biggest gains can be made by supporting workers through early access to rehabilitation, as well as increasing prevention measures to stop them becoming ill or injured in the first place.

'Unfortunately, because of the narrow remit that the government gave to the review, these issues are not covered. Instead employers could attempt to use the proposals to challenge the advice from a GP or seek to move someone who has become disabled to another job rather than make adjustments to keep them in their existing one.

'The report also fails to address the huge issue of 'presenteeism' where workers come in to work when they should be off sick, despite evidence that this is a major and growing problem in the workplace.'

The report comes a week after a research report in the USA showed that the absence of sick pay cost the US economy over $1 billion a year. http://www.iwpr.org/carousel/access-to-paid-sick-days-could-save-1-billion

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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