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Government to launch new long-term sickness advisory service

The Government is to launch a new health advisory service aimed at helping employers to tackle the problem of long-term sickness absence.

The plans form part of the Government’s response to the recent Sickness Absence Review and will see the introduction of a free, independent health and work assessment and advisory service, offering advice where cases of sickness absence last longer than four weeks.

The Government hopes that the scheme, which will be implemented in 2014, will save employers up to £160m a year in statutory sick pay and increase economic output by up to £900m a year.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has broadly welcomed the scheme. Dr Adam Marshall, BCC Director of Policy, said, ‘Sickness absence accounts for more than 300,000 people being out of work each year, costing employers and taxpayers tens of billions of pounds’.

Dr Marshall welcomed the news that Employee Assistance Programmes will continue to attract tax relief. However, the BCC is calling on the Treasury to accept the recommendation that employers should pay for medical interventions without imposing tax on the affected employee.