Britain’s sick note culture

Britain's "sick note culture" costs Great Britain more than £100 billion (about R1,616 billion) a year. Furthermore, the drain on the economy from benefits claimants and those who miss work through ill health is "unsustainable" and threatens the very fabric of society, warns Dame Carol Black, the national director for health and work.

What can be done?

  • Last week, the government announced that from 2010 all those claiming incapacity benefits, currently 2.6 million, would have to undergo tests to prove that they are unfit.

  • The Government's welfare reform adviser, David Freud, believes 1.9 million are claiming the benefit unnecessarily.

    How big is this problem?

  • Ill health and disability costs the British economy £103 billion (about R1,664 billion) a year.

  • The largest cost to the economy comes in lost production, £63 billion (about U.S. $127 billion) annually.

  • Mental health problems such as depression cost the economy £40 billion (about R646.4 billion) a year, including sick leave, loss of productivity and extra health care.

  • Payment for sickness absence cost another £10 billion (about R161.6 billion) a year, while informal care provided by family and friends costs £25 billion (about R404) and alternative health care accounts for £5 billion (about R80.8).

    Under Black's proposals, doctors, social services and counsellors will be brought in to try to get long-term absentees back to work. At the same time, measures will be introduced to prevent people with minor conditions from joining the long-term sick.

    Source: Kate Devlin, 'Sick Note Culture' Costing £100bn Every Year, London Daily Telegraph, March 17, 2008.

    For text:

    For more on Health Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 25 March 2008
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