North West no longer has
highest sickness rate in the UK
THE North West no longer has the worst
sickness rate in the UK, according to the 2016 Sickness Absence Survey report,
published by EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, and employee Benefits
The annual business survey, the largest of its kind, shows that 5.4 days a year
are now lost to sickness per person in the region; down from 6.2 days a year
previously. It means that the region is now only slightly above the UK average,
where 5.3 days a year are lost to sickness per person.
The North West has climbed up the rankings from bottom place to 7th in the UK;
but this still means only the East Midlands, Scotland and Wales lose more days,
per person, to sickness. At the same time, the region's absence rate has
decreased from 2.7% to 2.4%; again placing it above the national average of
Across the UK, long term absence has increased for the second year in a row. At
the same time, 40% of firms say that an under pressure NHS is struggling to meet
their need to get employees back to work.
There has been a further fall in employers' confidence in GPs to improve return
to work rates, while perceptions of the effectiveness of the 'fit note'
system continues to deteriorate. At the same time, the burden of referring
employees to the new 'Fit for Work' service is shifting to employers.
The report warns that an over stretched NHS is proving unable to support the
working age population by providing timely and effective rehabilitation and
medical treatment. As a result, it is urging radical action to tackle the UK's
chronic sickness absence problem and to encourage more employers to pay for
private treatment for employees to ease the burden on the NHS.
2 fifths of companies still rely exclusively on the NHS as the primary source
of treatment to reduce absence; 18% currently pay for non NHS treatment.
However, 31% would pay for medical treatment if there was a Benefit to the
company, while 59% would be most incentivised to pay for the cost of treatment
or workplace adjustment by some form of employer allowable business expense.
According to EEF, a fit and healthy workforce is an essential component of
economic growth and therefore more incentives are required to encourage
employers to provide private healthcare as part of efforts to tackle the UK's
Steve Warren, North West Region Director at EEF, says:- "It's interesting
to see how our region compares for sickness rates, but there is a serious
concern here. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that keeping people fit and
healthy, while enabling a speedy return to work from absence, is essential to
economic growth. However, this report shows long term absence on the
increase and an under pressure NHS that is struggling to deal with the issue.
With an ageing population this situation is only going to get worse; radical
action is required. Government must now use incentives to encourage employers to
pay for private medical treatment and allow it to be offset in the same way as
other business expenses. Not only would this help take the pressure off the NHS,
but it would allow a speedier return to work. This would be a win win for
Government, employers and employees."
In response to the report and ahead of a White Paper on workforce health due to
be published this summer, EEF has made the following recommendations:-
► Review the current levels of employer Taxation for employer led health
interventions where they are currently Taxed as Benefits in kind
► Carry out sensitivity analysis of different fiscal incentives, such as changes
to allowable business expenses, Tax Credits and Tax Relief
► Treat Tax Relief for Private Medical Insurance (PMI) in the same way as the
£500 Tax exemption for treatments recommended by the Fit for Work service
► Consider Tax Relief on income protection insurance or group income protection
(GIP) as a means of providing sick pay and rehabilitation support to employees
► Provide some form of fiscal incentive to companies that fund treatments as
part of rehabilitation, which would otherwise have had to be provided by the NHS
or which prevented state Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments.