The government has announced plans for a new return-to-work service that will allow GPs to refer any worker who has been off sick for more than four weeks for an occupational health assessment.
The results of the assessment will be shared with the patient, GP and employer.
Referral will be voluntary on the part of the patient and mainly through their GP. It will be funded by the government scrapping the so called percentage threshold scheme which it provides employers £10 a week, in return for them paying sick pay.
The level of statutory sick pay that workers are entitled to will remain unchanged.
UNISON believes that this reinforces the importance of members seeking advice from their safety reps and stewards if they are likely to be off sick for lengthy periods of time and don’t know when they will be fit to return to work.
Commenting on the announcement, head of health and safety Tracey Harding said: “We simply do not have enough detail at the moment.
“We welcome that the government has listened to some of our concerns. We are in favour of a service that supports workers who are off sick for lengthy periods, and identifies and provides what they need to make a recovery and return to work.”
But Ms Harding continued: “We cannot support anything that forces sick workers back to work.
“We also have concerns around patient confidentiality, how it will be commissioned, the funding of the service and whether, once they have been assessed, they will get the treatment they need.”