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Sick Leave: Poor Mental Health Found to be Leading Cause of Long-Term Absence at Work

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Photo Credits: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

A recent survey, by CIPD and Simplyhealth, found that this year the UK sick leave rate is the highest it’s been in 10 years. On average, UK employees have been away from work for 7.8 days over the past year.

Upon analysing trends, and surveying 6.5 million employees, it was found that 63% of employees have taken long-term leave because of poor mental health. Other reasons for long-term leave include musculoskeletal injuries and acute medical conditions. This survey also showed that around 37% of employees are still struggling with COVID-19 and need to take leave because of that.

Sickness Absence Trends for Long-Term Sick Leave
Sickness Absence Trends for Long-Term Sick Leave

What are UK Employers Doing to Manage Sickness Absence?

Employers need to create a sickness management strategy that allows employees to go on leave without worrying about the business and also allows employees to seamlessly return to work. According to the CIPD, effective return-to-work programs and workplace adjustments are the ideal way to do so.

READ: Council Worker Uses Sick Leave for Second Job | Moonlighting in the UK [2023]

Additionally, measuring and monitoring trends in absence will also help manage risk. While the CIPD has offered a few different ways to measure absence trends, it is important to adjust these according to the Equality Act. Employees need to take into account disabilities or any long-term health conditions and then measure absences fairly. This will also allow them to appropriately support staff when needed.

Currently, around 69% of organisations are offering sick pay leave for employees and 82% provide employee assistance programs. It is also believed that most organisations have their own well-being policies to support the workforce as well.

Simplyhealth’s chief customer officer, Claudia Nicholls, feels that it is crucial for employers to support staff in their health and wellbeing. She further adds, “Focusing on fixing sickness alone is unlikely to uncover areas where any significant improvements can be made; companies need to implement preventative health and wellbeing strategies that are supported by the most senior levels of leadership and build line manager skills and confidence to support wellbeing.”

Getting Sick Pay in the UK – Employee Guidance

Usually, when an employee starts a role, they will be informed of how to take sick leave, i.e., when and how to inform their employer. They may also receive extra instructions on what information they may need to show to the employer. It is best advised to follow the way mentioned by the employer so as to not breach the employment contract.

Sick pay is similar and is often instructed about when an employee starts working. However, if an employee does not know how to claim sick pay, ACAS has laid down rules on who is eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP). Employees are only eligible if–

  1. They have been off sick for 4 working days in a row
  2. Earn at least £123 a week before tax
  3. They have informed their employer about the leave within any deadline set or within a week

On the occasion that a company has their own sick pay scheme, employees could also be paid Contractual Sick Pay or CSP (which might be even more than the legal amount). In such cases, it’s best to cross-check eligibility and the necessary process with the employer.

READ: CIPD Lays Down Three Core Themes Needed For UK’s Growth in New Manifesto

Even if a company does not offer CSP, employees that meet ACAS’ eligibility criteria are entitled to SSP which is £109.40 a week for up to 28 weeks. If an employee is not eligible for SSP, the employer would have to inform them of why that is the case via an SSP1 form or letter/email. Employees may be entitled to other benefits offered by the government if they aren’t eligible for SSP.

Employees are paid SSP and CSP just like normal wages, and the pay is also taxed.

Medical Evidence/Fit Note For Sick Leave

According to the NHS, if you are taking less than seven days off work, there shouldn’t be any need to provide medical evidence. Most employers have a self-certification form which employees can fill out to give more information about their sickness.

However, if employees are taking more than 7 days of sick leave, then the employer can ask for a fit note from a healthcare professional. It is crucial to remember that the fit note needs to contain the name and/or signature of the healthcare professional, irrespective of the format of the note.

Looking for more advice on sick leave and sick pay? Get in touch with employment law specialists at Redmans today! Call 020 3397 3603 or send your details via the form here.

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