Working Well: a plan to reduce long term sickness absence

Year of Publication: 

IPPR has published a report addressing the high numbers of people leaving work as a result of acquiring a disability or long term health condition. The report, Working Well: a plan to reduce long term sickness absence, makes the case for a new 'Fit Pay' policy that would give employers the incentive to work with staff to keep them healthy and in work.

Recommendations for employers

Employers should encourage open dialogue in which the presence of different health conditions is not stigmatised, and ensure that employee health, wellbeing and sickness is monitored systematically to identify problems. Anti-stigma campaigns, health and wellbeing awareness training for line managers and leadership on health and wellbeing issues from senior management all have an important role to play. A growing number of employers are introducing ‘wellbeing days’, which can be taken at extremely short notice or on the day itself, unlike regular periods of leave which must be booked in advance. They are intended as a means of reducing sickness absence and presenteeism by preventing the accumulation of stress and fatigue.

In addition, employers should:

  • include health and wellbeing in annual review processes and regular supervisions
  • use sickness management software and systems to identify problems, particularly fluctuating conditions, as early as possible
  • make greater use of flexible working practices, underpinned by a robust absence management system, and greater understanding of ‘reasonable adjustments’ within a mental health context.


Recommendations for government

Government must introduce a major shift in incentives with greater obligations on employers to support employees to stay in work, and greater financial liabilities if they fail to do so. It must also ensure that the sickness policy framework, notably statutory sick pay, properly reflects the nature of today’s major health conditions. We recommend that the government introducec four major reforms.

  1. Establish new employer duties to engage with employees on statutory sick pay and extend SSP from 28 to 52 weeks.
  2. Introduce ‘Fit Pay’ (flexible sick pay) to better reflect the nature of modern health conditions and better support employees back into work.
  3. Pilot an expanded ‘Fit for Work’ occupational health service to support SMEs in particular to support employees to stay in work.
  4. Ensure employers meet responsibilities for paying SSP.