When Dame Carol Black conducted a major review of sickness absence in 2011 she made a number of recommendations to improve workplace sickness absence and associated costs. One of these was to introduce a government-funded assessment by an occupational health professional of employees who are off sick for four weeks or more. This has resulted in the government's new Health & Work Service (H&WS), which is a This government funded occupational health service is due to go live in April 2015 (with roll-out from late 2014). As part of the government’s long-term economic plan the new service will help employees and employers to manage sickness absence.
Employees on sick leave will be helped to return to work by providing them with an occupational health assessment when they reach, or are expected to reach, more than 4 weeks’ sickness absence. Employees will normally be referred by their GPs. A resulting return to work plan will be shared with their employer and GP. More general health and work advice will be available to GPs, employers and employees via telephone and a website.
The contract for the H&WS for England and Wales has been awarded to Maximus, one of the largest occupational health providers in the UK. In Scotland, the H&WS will be arranged by the Scottish government. The H&WS is expected to be funded through the abolition of the percentage threshold scheme, which enabled employers to reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP) where the total SSP paid in a month exceeded 13% of the employer's Class 1 National Insurance Contributions for that month.