Reasses the Public Sector Sicknote Culture

The Evening Standard’s headlines last night attacked the sicknote culture of civil servants at the “heart of Government”. Their appraisal does not ask why this might be the case or what a solution could look like.

This piece was co-opted by the welfare headlines, but although out of sync with the private sectors 5 day average, it isn’t with other public sector employees. As 2020health’s report HealthWorks Homerton re-emphasises – NHS workers have an average of over 10 days sickness and that the way to tackle this strategically is through promoting wellbeing and understanding staff needs.

There is undoubtedly a cost to the taxpayer, but this doesn’t get to the heart of the issue and is borderline heartless. There is a cultural issue about a sicknote culture – i.e. people taking the odd duvet day and pulling sickies. However, there is a much more important health and wellbeing issue. Most of the 1.6 million days lost in Government Department and the 10 million days lost in the NHS is taken up by long term sickness. There is a whole myriad of reasons why this could be the case – sometime poor access to treatments that might enable patients to work (medical or otherwise) i.e. talking therapies or occupational health services. Other times this will be about the employer – where the employer can’t make adjustments to the job description, working hours or working environment to allow for a return to work.

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