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Sickness absence - The Frost/Black review

In February 2011 the Government called for a major review of the sickness absence system in order to tackle the millions of lost days every year due to sickness absence. The review was jointly chaired by David Frost CBE and Professor Dame Carol Black and was released in late November 2011.

The report starts with the premise that work is good for health and, in many cases, can aid recovery. Yet, each year around 11m employees take sick leave and while most people return to work, around 300,000 go on to claim health-related benefits. This costs the taxpayer £13bn a year and the whole country some £15bn in lost economic output.

Among the report’s main recommendations:

  • The Government should fund a new Independent Assessment Service (IAS) - The IAS would provide an in-depth assessment of an individual’s physical and/or mental function and how an individual could be supported to return to work
  • Fit note guidance should avoid judgments based on job-specific assessments
  • Knowledge and awareness among healthcare professionals should be improved
  • Employer expenditure on helping employees back to work should get tax relief
  • Tax relief on EAPs (employee assistance programmes) should be maintained
  • A new job brokering service should be introduced to help long term sick employees find new work before they fall onto the benefits system

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