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A recent website poll by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) on the introduction of GP fit notes has found that 90% of employers do not believe they are effective.

The GP fit note, or Statement of Fitness for Work as it is formally known, was introduced in April 2010, following a review of the health of Britain's working age population by Dame Carol Black. In her review, Dame Black found evidence that some employers are reluctant to contact absent staff for fear of being accused of harassment.

According to the CIPP, the fit note was introduced as a tool to encourage conversations between employers and employees about how an earlier return to work, including a phased or adjusted return, could be facilitated.

Diana Bruce, Senior Policy Liaison Officer at the CIPP, commented that “Managing sickness absence is a challenging and often sensitive issue for employers so if the communication channels are open from the outset with clear company policies, the easier the process should be for both employers and employees.”

Stress in the workplace to rise

Posted by on in Employment

The 2nd European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health has concluded that job-related stress is a concern for the large majority of the European workforce.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), found that eight in ten of the working population across Europe think that the number of people suffering from job-related stress over the next five years will increase (80%), with as many as 52% expecting this to ‘increase a lot.’

Work-related stress is one of the biggest health and safety challenges faced in Europe, representing a huge cost in terms of human distress and economic performance. The poll additionally found that the large majority of Europeans (86%) agree that following good occupational safety and health practices is necessary for a country’s economic competitiveness, with 56% strongly agreeing.

The poll also found that 87% of the general public across Europe believe that good occupational health and safety practices are important to help people work for longer before they retire.

A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that many Europeans are ready for active ageing but their current occupational safety and health conditions might not allow them to continue working to an older age.

Although the typical pensionable age is 65 years across Europe, the average exit age from the labour force in 2009 was about 61.5 years according to Eurostat. In the Eurobarometer survey, four in ten (42%) Europeans believe that they will be capable of doing the work they are currently doing until the age of 65 or beyond, while 17% expect that they will not be able to carry on in their current job past the age of 59.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called for the government to do more to lift the burden of regulation on business.

Responding to the publication of the government’s Statement of New Regulation, John Longworth, Director General of the BCC, said:

“Although the costs faced by businesses have been reduced, the government has not gone far enough in terms of real deregulation in key areas such as employment. There is still a long way to go if ministers are to honour their pledge to be the first administration to leave office having significantly reduced regulation.

“Businesses tell us they are still not feeling the burden of regulation lifting. Although doubling the unfair dismissal qualifying period to two years will boost business confidence to hire, more changes are needed to create a hard-hitting and comprehensive deregulatory package.

“This includes reforming redundancy rules, introducing no-fault dismissal and tribunal fees and sufficient action to implement promised health and safety changes. Reforms to mitigate the effect of the removal of the Default Retirement Age must also be put in place. With unemployment so high, it is crucial that these changes are implemented without delay to give businesses confidence to invest and grow.

“The regulatory process must be made more robust and transparent, with the volume of proposals deemed out of scope through the One-in, One-out System reduced. Furthermore, the recommendations made by the Regulatory Policy Committee should be published so the government can be held to account for their promises. This will also help to prevent any single minister or department from creating burdensome and costly new red tape.”

A recent survey by Croner has found that almost half of adult workers questioned feel more or much more stressed than they did a year ago.

Key factors contributing to rising stress levels include:

  • higher unpaid workloads (57%),
  • performance pressures (45%),
  • the need to work longer hours (34%), and
  • the imposition of pay freezes (33%).

Amy Paxton, a senior employment consultant at Croner, said: "The fact that 48% of the workers we surveyed say they are more stressed as a result of work than a year ago should be a real wake-up call for employers. At a time when many industries are under such pressure to keep their heads above water, or even survive, employers cannot afford to have such high levels of stress and the associated difficulties it can cause in their organisations."

She went on to say that: "Stress can be reduced by improving working conditions, restructuring jobs and allowing more flexible working arrangements. A supportive work ethos and a climate in which staff are encouraged to openly discuss their concerns can also help.”

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