On 17 February 2011 the government called for a major review of the sickness absence system in Great Britain in order to help combat the 140 million days lost to sickness absence every year. The review was jointly chaired by David Frost, former Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, and Dame Carol Black, then National Director for Health and Work, and published on 21 November 2011.
The review presented an important analysis of the:
- sickness absence system in the UK
- impact of sickness absence on employers, the state and individuals
- factors which cause and prolong sickness absence and which, in too many cases, mean that employees move out of work entirely and on to benefits
The review also provided a critique of the current system and the roles that healthcare professionals, employers and government services play. This is an important contribution to our understanding of the sickness absence system and the reviewers offered challenging and new insights into this complex problem as well as a number of recommendations.
The government published its response to the review on 17 January 2013.
Terms of reference
The review had the following aims:
- to explore how the current sickness absence system could be changed to help people stay in work, reduce costs and contribute to economic growth
- to examine whether the balance of these costs are appropriately shared between the state, individuals and employers
- to make tangible recommendations for system change
- to ensure that recommendations for change are consistent with promoting private sector growth and minimising burdens on business and in particular small and medium-sized businesses
The review considered:
- radical and wide-ranging options to achieve these changes over the medium- and long-term
- other international models and their context, such as that in Holland, where the state has successfully reduced its costs
- whether any recommendations made will work as well for those with mental health conditions as they will for other health conditions
- how any options fit with the coalition agreement and other agreed government priorities including: promoting private-sector growth, ‘One-in One-out’, the Big Society agenda, and the Employment Law Review
- how any options put forward may work in practice and the potential impact of any changes on employers, businesses (by business size) and labour demand
- the costs and administrative burdens on businesses by business size (micro, small, medium and large)
- the benefits and costs to government of any proposed changes
- the impact on the devolved administrations
In making recommendations, the review also considered whether there are wider lessons that can be drawn about how the state supports people who return to work quickly rather than remaining on SSP. It examined the Industrial Injuries Disablement (IIDB) scheme, which provides state compensation for people who have had ‘no fault’ illness or injury as a result of their employment.