Changing the Sick Note Culture

Article published on 14th May 2008

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At last there are moves to overhaul the official General Practitioners administered system of sick-leave certification.

The British Government is keen to address the UK'ssick-note culture’. The British economy is estimated to lose over eight billion pounds a year just to mental health issues allegedly caused by work related stress, with thirty-six million working days lost each year due to poor occupational health. Apparently only half of those signed off as sick with back pain ever return to work if they have already been off for six months.

Also, the connection between poor occupational health and mortality rates is quite alarming, with the suicide rates amongst the unemployed being thirty-five times higher than amongst the working population. The figures get even grimmer when we consider that those claiming incapacity benefit: if a person claims for one year they are likely to claim it for another eight years, but then once a person has claimed it for two years they are apparently more likely to die than get back into the workplace.

Alan Johnson MP, the Health Secretary, hopes to shift emphasis from the sick-note culture and what people cannot do and focussing instead upon on the jobs they can do. The economic benefits for doing this are clear for society and for individuals, but the Health Secretary believes that "work is generally good for people's health".

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