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Absences Rise despite Fit Note Introduction

24th May 2011

New research shows that the average UK employee took 6.5 sick days off last year at a cost of £17bn to the economy.

The latest CBI/Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health study showed that 2010 saw over 190 million working days lost to sickness.  Despite the introduction of the “”fit note”" in 2010, the rate of absence has increased from 2009 when employees averaged 6.4 sick days a year.”"

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said that the cost of absence runs “”into billions of pounds a year”".

“”Although many organisations have been successful in bringing down levels of absence, the gap between the best and worst has widened,”" she said.

The survey is the first since the launch of the fit note medical certificate which declares what people can do rather than what they can’t with an aim to aid returns to work and reduce absence costs.  According to Amy Sergison, employment lawyer for Muckle LLP, this survey “”highlights the need for employers to actively manage employee absence and ensure that they do all that they can to reduce absences where possible.”"

Amy said: “”This could entail considering whether any reasonable adjustments could be made to the day to day work of employees to help them return to or stay at work without absence. The fit note itself may specify what type of work an individual can undertake and input from medical professionals could be beneficial in this area.

If an employer has concerns about the reasons for an individual’s absence, active management could again help to clamp down on people taking sick leave without being genuinely ill.  Any such concerns should be considered under the employer’s disciplinary policy and could result in disciplinary action being taken against any offending individual.”"

In this area, clarity is key. Muckle LLP recommends that employers make sure that their employees are aware from the outset of their approach in relation to such absences in order to avoid any ambiguity and legal problems.

For more information on employment law focusing on employee absence, please contact Amy Sergison on 0191 211 7995 or email [email protected].

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