· News

NICE offers help to speed the return to work of the long-term sick

New guidelines have been issued to help employers manage the problem of staff long-term sickness absence and incapacity for work.

The guidelines, issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), aims to complement existing initiatives to help reduce the number of employees moving to long-term sickness absence by making it easier for them to return to work.

It is currently estimated that 175 million working days are lost in Britain due to sickness absence each year and the associated cost is reaching £100 billion, said Mike Kelly, public health excellence director, NICE.

"This new guidance," he explained, "aims to help employers and employees work together to ensure that when someone is absent from work due to sickness, the right support is available as early as possible, so they can return to work as soon as they are able."

David Croisdale-Appleby, Wolfson Research Institute and the School of Medicine and Health, University of Durham, commented: "The guidance is excellent news for both employees and employers. It is in both parties' interest that employees get back to work as soon as possible after illness. We are recommending some very simple and straightforward measures that even the smallest employer can implement. These include keeping in regular, positive contact with the staff member when they are off sick, thereby ensuring they don't feel isolated."