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3 million workers would ask for bogus sick notes



Nearly three million workers across the country admit they’d consider asking their GP for a bogus sick-note – with twice as many men than women saying they’d cheat the system, according to a new report.

Norwich Union Healthcare’s latest ‘Health of the Nation Index’ found that doctors think almost a quarter of the 577 requests for sick-notes they each get yearly are questionable, at best, and nearly a fifth of them are invalid.

But many GPs think that the numbers of people on sick leave could be reduced if organisations arranged to have their employee back to work in a different capacity.

Dr Ann Robinson, one of the GPs who took part in the research said: “Employers need to be more flexible with their workforce and hospital services need to provide fast track diagnostic and treatment centres so people can get back to work as quickly as possible. It’s well known that the longer you’re off work, the harder it is to get back.”

Four in 10 of the GP panel, interviewed by medical research specialists Dr Foster, think more than a third of their patients who are unable to work, could actually work a few hours a day, or in a slightly different role, but that employers just aren’t encouraging them to return to work.

The most frequent causes for sick-note requests are:

  • Back pain
  • Depression
  • Workplace stress
  • Other stress-related problems
  • Flu
  • Research amongst workers also revealed the top five reasons they’d give to get a sick note:

  • Embarrassment, i.e. personal crisis they couldn’t tell their employer about
  • Workplace is too stressful
  • Holiday request refused or didn’t want to use their holiday entitlement
  • Fatigue
  • Gave me a legitimate excuse to skive off work
  • “Employers must ensure they have progressive people management policies in place, which are less likely to lead employees to wake up and think ‘I don’t feel like going to work today’. This means ensuring that staff are treated fairly at work, have achievable targets and the support, training and recognition to help them achieve these targets,” said Ben Willmott, Employee Relations Adviser at the CIPD.

    “But GPs also have a key role to play. It is in their interests to issue sick notes in a responsible manner by making every effort to establish if their patient has a genuine health problem that prevents them from attending work,” he added.

    One Response

    1. Relieving pressure from GPs could backfire on businesses
      Calls by GPs to relieve them of the pressure of writing out ‘sicknotes’ for patients will backfire on businesses if a sensible alternative is not provided.

      GPs have recently called on the Government to change the current system as doctors do not want the responsibility of writing sicknotes. Many GPs have said that they are too busy and issue them without question.

      It’s been well documented that GPs have a lot on their plate, but staff absence is also a huge problem and it’s not as simple as saying that GPs don’t have to do it any longer.

      The problem of staff taking days off without actually being ill is a problem that needs to be controlled and if the responsibility is taken away completely from GPs, companies will be forced to take on an the additional cost by employing an in-house health profession.

      It is estimated that UK workers take a total of 166 million sick days each year – around 6.8 days per employee. For most of these days, it is estimated that a third are taken from malingerers.

      Nichola Upperton Evans, employment partner, Rowe Cohen solicitors.

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