Health secretary Alan Johnson and work and pensions secretary James Purnell today backed plans to reduce levels of sick leave by boosting support for workplace health.
The government’s response to national director for health and work Dame Carol Black’s report on workplace health, published in March, accepted many of her recommendations. Black found that the economic costs of ill-health based unemployment and sickness absence topped £100bn a year.
The government accepted her call to replace paper-based sick notes with electronic “fit notes”. These are designed to help GPs focus their advice on what people can do rather than what they cannot, and improve the flow of information between employers, individuals and doctors.
Back to work support
Johnson and Purnell also backed Black’s call to pilot a “fit for work” service to provide multi-disciplinary support to people on sick leave to help them return to work. The pilots will begin in 2009 and run until 2011.
In response to Black’s call to set up a “business-led health and well-being consultancy service” to provide advice on health to small businesses in particular, the government will introduce health, work and well-being co-ordinators who will have an advice and support role.
Black’s report also highlighted the lack of evidence on workplace health. In response, the government will set up a National Centre for Working-Age Health and Well-Being to gather and analyse data, identify evidence gaps and encourage researchers to close them, and help determine the impact of interventions.