The government will implement the fit note and has proposed a series of other measures that will help to ease the burden of managing sickness absence for employers as part of its response to Dame Carol Black’s report into the health of the working age population.
James Purnell, work and pensions secretary and health secretary Alan Johnson have announced plans to get disabled or ill people back to work by giving them support to manage their condition and get the right help to keep their jobs.
Measures outlined in Black’s report, Working for a healthier tomorrow, published in March, which are to be implemented by the government include the introduction of the electronic fit note, which will replace the paper-based sick note. Fit for work services to support people off on long-term sick to return to work will also be introduced.
Other proposals set out by the government include a national centre for working-age health and wellbeing- an independent body, which will identify evidence gaps and encourage research related to the health and wellbeing of working-age people.
The introduction of health, work and wellbeing co-ordinators to stimulate action on health, work and wellbeing issues and offer advice and support aims to help local partnerships and smaller businesses in particular.
An occupational health helpline for smaller businesses will also be piloted to provide access to professional occupational health advice on individual employee health issues (including mental health).
A challenge fund has been proposed to encourage ground breaking local initiatives that improve workplace health and wellbeing.
A review of the health and wellbeing of the NHS workforce will also be carried out in partnership with employers and staff to identify what needs to be done to improve the health and wellbeing of the NHS workforce.
Purnell said: “Now more than ever it’s important to help people who are sick to stay in work so that they can support themselves and their families. These proposals will help do just that. Everyone has the right to work and we want to design a fair system which supports people so they can work when they are able. We also plan to extend the help available for small businesses so they have the tools they need to be able to support employees with health problems carry on working if they can or return to work as soon as they are ready.”
Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work, said: “I welcome this response and am glad to see that the Government has taken on board my recommendations and is committed to action. I am especially pleased the fit-note and the fit for work pilots will be implemented along with support for small businesses.
“I believe the measures unveiled by the government will help make our society a healthier and happier one, where everyone recognises the link between good health and good work. But to ensure it happens we need to work together to change attitudes and behaviours. The government has taken this first important step, but we need to work in partnership, with business leaders, employers and individuals all having a role to play.”