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New service launched to tackle long-term sickness absence

Employers are thought to foot a bill each year of £9 billion on sick pay and related costs. Meanwhile only one in ten workers at small businesses has access to an occupational health service, compared with more than half of staff at larger firms. To crack both nuts, the Government has launched a new independent assessment and advisory service, helping British businesses tackle long-term sickness absence in the workplace.

The Government hopes that the new service will create a new channel of advice and information and help employers make 'a judgement about when and on what circumstance their employees will return after a period of absence'.

Although primed to benefit employers, workers and GPs, it's particularly targeted at employees who each year experience one or more spells of absence over four weeks. This kind of long-term absence comprises only around 5 per cent of all spells but accounts for almost half of total working days lost.

The Government estimates that the scheme could save employers up to £160 million a year in statutory stick pay. Pilot occupational advice services will be funded until March 2014, and the scheme as a whole is expected to be up and running the same year.

Acas provides information and guidance on sickness absence, including the Advisory booklet - Managing attendance and employee turnover. Acas also offers practical training in Absence management developing absence policies, reducing workplace absence and creating an attendance culture.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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