· News

Government set to tackle long-term sickness cost

Employees on long-term sickness absence are to receive additional support to get them back into work, under a Government-backed scheme.

The Health and Work Service will begin offering non-compulsory medical assessments and treatment plans from April this year. 

The Government hopes the system will save employers money by reducing the amount they spend on sickness pay and related costs.

Laws surrounding sickness pay will not be affected, although the Government will fund the scheme by scrapping the Statutory Sick Pay Percentage Threshold scheme.

This currently gives some compensation to employers faced with high levels of sickness absence.

Mike Penning, minister for disabled people, told the BBC the scheme would particularly benefit small and medium sized businesses.

"As part of the Government's long-term economic plan, we are taking action to get people back into work," he said.

"This is a triple-win. It will mean more people with a job, reduced cost for business, and a more financially secure future for Britain."

The Government estimates the scheme could companies up to £70 million a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs.

Under current laws, staff who are off work for more than four weeks are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay of almost £90 a week from their employers.