Following the “fit note”: now a Statutory Sick Pay headache for smaller employers
The financial “stick”
An independent review in 2011 found that a lack of access to occupational health advice was one of the biggest barriers to people returning to work after illness. Subsequently, changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) were announced in the 2013 budget in an attempt to address this and to help employees who’ve been incapacitated for four weeks or more get back to work. The Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS), which allowed employers to reclaim SSP in certain circumstances, was abolished two months ago (5/4/14). PTS allowed employers to reclaim SSP when the SSP paid was more than 13% of the Class 1 NIC due for the month. It is estimated that this abolition will save the Treasury around £50 million in 2014/5.
The Occupational Health “Carrot”…but no sign yet?
The Government decided to introduce an independent assessment service, Health and Work Service (HWS) which plans to make expert health and work advice freely available to employers and employees. This service is expected to be set up in the Autumn, with it being fully operational by early 2015.
There are 2 elements to the service:
• assessment – once the employee has reached, or is expected to reach, 4 weeks of sickness absence they will normally be referred by their GP for an assessment by an occupational health professional, who will look at all the issues preventing the employee from returning to work
• advice – employers, employees and GPs will be able to access advice through a phone line and website
Following an assessment, employees will receive a return to work plan with recommendations to help them to return to work more quickly and information on how to get appropriate help and advice. It remains to be seen how effective the planned HWS is in practice when it gets up and running, in the meantime, if you have problems with long term (or repeated ill health absence) you should deal these issues now.
Please contact Ross Strowger on 01603 703086 or email email@example.com for individual advice.
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