In early 2011 the government set up a review of the sickness absence system with a view to reducing the 140 million days lost to sickness absence every year.
"The government has also confirmed it will introduce a tax break of up to £500 for each employee on medical treatments recommended through the HWS."
One element to be introduced in late 2014 as a result of this review is the Health and Work Service (HWS).
The service is split into two elements:
- the first element is designed to provide an independent occupational health style assessment and return to work plan for any employee who has reached or is expected to reach four weeks absence
- the second element is an advice service offering support to employers, employees and GPs through a phone line and website.
We understand that the service is free to use but is not compulsory and companies with existing occupational health services may wish to continue to use their existing service.
Recently the government has also confirmed it will introduce a tax break of up to £500 for each employee on medical treatments recommended through the HWS or an employer arranged occupational health service.
Barnett Waddingham view
Whilst we are pleased to see the government supporting employers in their battle against sickness absence there remains a few unanswered questions; how will the tax rebate work in practice? what are the turnaround times for occupational health reports?
For employers who do not have occupational health services or for those who use an independent provider charging on an ad-hoc basis this service is a welcome addition and those employers may wish to consider altering their absence policies to utilise the new service.
Ultimately this is a step in the right direction; however companies that have a real desire to decrease absence, increase productivity and stabilise insurance premium costs must first of all understand their health risks.
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