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Employee Benefits News

Latest News
22 Feb 2017

´Wellbeing days´ and opening up dialogue around mental health could help tackle £9bn ill-health bill

Organisations have been compelled by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to prioritise wellbeing as much as sickness, in order to rectify Britain´s growing sickness absence rate. The government body also suggested a range of potential ideas, such as ‘wellbeing days´ and extended sick leave, that aim to keep people healthy and in work.

The news follows a report published by the institution that analysed long-term sickness absence. Within it, they uncovered that an estimated 460,000 people transition from work to sickness and disability benefits a year, which results in a £9bn bill for employers charged with providing sick pay. Moreover, the government spends an additional £14.5bn on support allowance. It is projected that if the absence rate continues to deteriorate, it will cost almost £17bn by 2020.

The IPPR established that poor mental health was one of the chief causes behind absences. Opening up an honest, compassionate conversation surrounding mental health in the workplace is essential; doubly so when considering how cuts across the NHS have hit the mental health services particularly hard. In lieu of adequate, accessible treatment and therapy waiting lists that last months, this is a problem that if left, will just get worse.

In addition to opening up a frank dialogue, employees may be given the option to use a ‘fit pay´ payment, which would be used by employees to temporarily reduce their hours should they suffer from a mental or physical disability.

Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at the IPPR, commented: “More and more people are suffering from mental health conditions in work. We´re calling for employers and the state to do more to keep people well in work. Our proposal for fit pay will do just that, helping employees who develop a health or mental health condition to manage their condition and stay in touch with work.”

Charlotte Cross, director of the Better Health at Work Alliance, said: “Investment in a proper health at work structure is an important thing to advocate, and we agree with the recommendations that the government should adapt statutory sick pay and introduce a fit pay scheme to better reflect the shape of modern ill-health and absence.”

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