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May 4, 2011

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Employers sceptical about fit-note impact

Significant concerns remain that employees are being signed off work sick unnecessarily, and further action is needed if the benefits of the new fit-note system are to be realised.
These are the conclusions of a major sickness-absence survey of manufacturing companies carried out by EEF – the manufacturers’ organisation, in association with health-insurance provider, Westfield Health.
The survey, which is based on the responses of more than 450 of the EEF’s member companies, found that more businesses disagreed that the fit note, introduced in April last year, has had a positive effect, than agreed.
Just 17 per cent of employers had seen an improvement in the advice from the medical profession on what adjustments can be made to expedite an employee’s return to work. Consequently, the EEF is urging the Government to step up efforts to foster a culture of rehabilitation and reducing sickness absence among employers, employees and the medical profession.
On a more positive note, 20 per cent of companies said the fit note had helped them reduce absence, and 28 per cent said it had aided return-to-work discussions. The number of companies reporting the GP as a barrier to rehabilitation also fell significantly – down from 39 per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent in 2010.
The survey also reveals that over the last four years there has been a steady fall in sickness absence, with the average employee taking five days sickness in 2010, compared with 6.7 in 2007. Significantly, an all-time high of 45 per cent of employees took no days off through sickness last year – and, while the EEF accepts that the recession may have encouraged workers to take fewer days off, it notes that this trend began prior to the downturn.
The organisation expressed disappointment that there has not been an increase in the proportion of companies that has set a specific absence target – remaining at between 65 per cent and 67 per cent since 2007. Nevertheless, companies’ success in achieving their targets, which are also becoming more challenging, has increased significantly over the same period – from 46 per cent in 2007 to 69 per cent in 2010. The survey also found that companies who trained their managers are one third more likely to reduce their sickness absence.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Sayeed Khan, the EEF’s chief medical advisor, said: “The continued downward trend in sickness absence is welcome recognition of efforts by companies and government to get people back to work. In particular, it is striking that the companies who have proactively contacted their GPs to discuss adjusting people’s working arrangements have seen the highest level of response.

“It is also clear that doing the basics, such as training line managers and GPs in managing sickness absence, pays dividends. If we are to see the trend continuing to improve and the economic benefit to the UK economy this brings, it is vital that government continues to fund the training of GPs in health and work issues.”
Other findings include:

  • a continued decrease in stress and back pain as causes of long-term sickness absence;
  • the proportion of companies reporting an increase has steadily declined from 25 per cent in 2007 to 15 per cent in 2010; and
  • the percentage of companies reporting an increase in long-term absence fell from 39 per cent in 2007 to 32 per cent in 2010.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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13 years ago

Fit Note to one side the bigger issue is GP’s sending people back to work who are not fit because they do not understand the true nature of their normal employment. As a result and as part of our Return to Work Interview process we now have to pay an Occupational Health Specialist to determine the true nature of their ” fitness “. In addition GP’s will not sign a Fit Note for less than five days placing an additional burden on employers where an employee may have been able to return before.

13 years ago

I feel the fit note is a positive way of managing sickness absence but I beleive the GPs should give clear guide lines of what the individual can and cannot do upon their return to work.