In a bid to determine why workers sign off ill for long periods of time, the Job Retention and Rehabilitation Pilot examines common problems such as ME, depression and back pain, as well as other less typical illnesses, to determine what additional support can be given to help people to work.
The media relations programme is expected to boost the number of volunteers signing up for the scheme. During the two-year research project, the Government hopes to get feedback from 7,000 volunteers who have taken long-term sick leave or are employers with employees who take long-term sick leave. With the project at its halfway mark at the end of April, Harrison Cowley has been brought in to bring the programme up to its target.
Harrison Cowley associate director Rebecca Gudgen said: ‘We are looking for volunteers from around the country to find out what they need, whether it is flexible working terms or better positions on NHS waiting lists.’
The scheme looks in particular at people who take more than six months off work, of whom only ten per cent ever return to work. It is understood that after extended time off work, these people can suffer confidence problems which can prevent them going back to their jobs. The Government believes early intervention may be one solution to this issue and is testing three different types of intervention.
In projects being run in Glasgow, Tyneside, Teesside, Sheffield, Birmingham and Kent, the three methods focus on health, workplaces and a combination of the two. Health involves physical treatment while workplace involves changing something in the environment and contact with the employer.
In 2001 the CBI estimated the cost of sick leave to UK businesses totalled £11bn and four per cent of the workforce is thought to be on sick leave at any one time.