Sick days cost UK economy whooping £17bn last year, finds report

Fit note not an effective measure yet, says CBI

The UK economy lost 190 million working days to absence last year at a cost of £17bn, the latest survey since the launch of the ‘fit note’ has revealed.

According to the Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health Survey, based on responses from 223 private sector companies and supported bythe Confederation of British Industry (CBI), each employee took an average of 6.5 days off sick last year.

The rate of absence is marginally higher than in 2009, when employees averaged 6.4 sick days, the lowest rate since the survey began in 1987.

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said that although many organisations have been successful in bringing down levels of absence, “there’s been no letup in the cost of absence to the UK economy, which runs into billions of pounds a year”.

Encouragingly, the report identified widespread general support for the fit note, a new medical certificate which focuses on what people can do rather than what they can’t, designed to aid returns to work and reduce costs related to absenteeism among British businesses.

Yet the authors claimed that employers have been disappointed by their experience so far, with 66% of firms saying that it had not yet helped their rehabilitation policy.

Furthermore, 71% said they were not confident that GPs were using the fit note differently from the old sick note.

Hall added that while “the fit note is a great initiative” and could play an important role in helping people back to work and stopping them slide into long-term absence, that “employers are far from convinced that the scheme is working properly and don’t think GPs are getting the necessary training”.



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