You’re likely to have heard lots of different information about the new Health and Work Service that is currently being launched by the Government. By the time it has reached full implementation in May this year, it will provide SMEs with a route to practical and specialist guidance on how to deal with potentially difficult long-term sickness absence issues.

So, how will the new Health and Work Service be able to help your business and what do you need to know to reap the full benefits? The Personnel Partnership explains.

What exactly is the Health and Work Service?

The Health and Work Service has been designed to sit alongside a company’s existing attendance management framework (should it have one). It will provide employers with free access to general health and work advice via a dedicated telephone line and website.
Through the creation of return to work plans (following a period of sickness absence that lasts for four consecutive weeks or more) the Service will also help employers by enabling and encouraging employees to return to work sooner.

What is the objective of the Health and Work Service?

One of the main objectives behind the new Service is to reduce the number of days lost each year due to sickness absence. Last year alone, 131million working days were lost due to sickness absence in the UK; which is an average of 4.4 days for each worker.

How does it work?

When an eligible employee has been absent for four consecutive weeks or more, the Service will help by carrying out telephone assessments to identify any barriers that might prevent the employee from returning to work, and then devising a return to work plan. It will also provide case management support and general advice.  This will be particularly beneficial for small businesses that often rely upon a small yet vital workforce.

What additional benefits will there be for employers?

Employers will also benefit from a tax exemption of up to £500 per year on medical treatments that are recommended by either the Health and Work Service, an employer’s Occupational Health Advisor or another registered medical practitioner, and treatment’s won’t be subject to National Insurance contributions.

What should employers do next?

Employers should ensure that they have clear communication channels in place with employees in order to gain maximum benefit from the Service. It is also encouraged that employers seek professional HR advice to ensure any return to work plans or difficult sickness absence issues can be discussed and expert advice provided accordingly. Further information on the Service can also be found at or by calling 0800 032 6235.

Want further guidance?

For further help and guidance on how the Health and Work Service works, including assessing if a member of staff qualifies and how the service can help your business, contact Helen Straw at The Personnel Partnership today.