UK government targets “sick note culture”

British Health Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to introduce a plan to limit the "sick note culture" in England, in order to get people on incapacity benefits back to work, says the Press Association.


  • Department of Health figures show that people who are on incapacity benefits for one year are likely to stay there for eight.

  • Once they have been there for two years or more, they are more likely to die or retire than work again.

    In addition:

  • The CBI estimates that 175 million working days are lost to ill health every year.

  • The Health and Safety Executive estimates that 36 million of these days are lost because of occupational ill health, with a total cost of up to £13 billion (about R201.5 billion) annually.

  • Back pain alone costs employers £600 million (about R9.3 billion) annually, with sufferers of persistent back problems taking on average 17 days off sick per year.

  • Only half of those with back problems who are signed off for six months or more return to work; only a quarter of those signed off for a year or more will return.

    Johnson is expected to say that Incapacity benefits should not be a one-way street that starts in the GP's surgery and stops at the dead end of a lifetime on benefit, and that evidence shows that far from being bad for health, work is generally good for people's health. In fact staying in work or returning to work is often in a patient's best interests.

    Source: Johnson targets 'sick note culture,' Press Association, February 20, 2008.

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    For more on Health Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 04 March 2008
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