Summit call over 'fit note' concern

The Government has been urged to call a summit of employers and the medical profession to tackle sickness absence after claims that employers have lost faith in the "fit note" programme.

A survey by the EEF manufacturers organisation and Westfield Health revealed that improvements in sickness absence levels in recent years had levelled out.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Further progress will only be made through concerted action to help reduce longer-term absence, said the report.

The study of more than 350 firms showed that a growing number believed the fit note programme was failing, with two out of five reporting an increase in long-term sickness absence.

After surgery, the main causes of long-term absence remained back problems, stress and other mental health issues.

The average number of days lost to sickness increased slightly from 5.1 days per employee in 2011 to 5.3 days last year, said the report.

Terry Woolmer of the EEF said: "Driving down absence rates and helping more employees to return earlier to work can play a key role in getting our economy growing. But, despite the increasing efforts of employers to manage sickness absence and support employees who have been off work, the improvement in absence rates has hit a plateau.

"We are only going to make further progress on sickness absence if we do something differently. That means making the fit note deliver the advice to help employers and employees work together to get more of them returning earlier to work. However, employers that were willing to give the fit note a chance are now becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of advice that it is providing.

"The Government needs to sit down with employers and the medical profession to understand what is holding up progress and agree a way forward. This must include a step change in the number of GPs being trained to use the fit note."

Paul Shires, executive director at Westfield Health, said: "The plateau shown in sickness absence levels reflects the clear need for government to invest more time and effort in helping employers manage the health and well-being of their staff."

Britain's most dangerous jobs
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Summit call over 'fit note' concern

By far the most dangerous job across most of the world is fishing. Apparently 103 in every 100,000 fishermen will die at sea - most of them by drowning, and according to Oxford University, those who work at sea are an incredible 50 times more likely to die at work than anyone else.

How well they are rewarded for risking their lives depends on where they fit in the pecking order. At the very top, with your own boat and crew, in a good year, you could bring home more than £100,000. At the bottom of the heap as a trainee deckhand you would be lucky to get more than £10,000 a year.

In the army, these experts have the nickname Felix - because they need every one of the nine lives. We all make mistakes at work and in this role mistakes will kill or maim you. 

In return for taking up such a dangerous role, you'll be paid £32,000 a year, which is made to look even more paltry by the fact that many of these experts end up drawing a disability pension before very long.

The risks of working with highly volatile and explosive materials in impossibly difficult natural environments is bad enough. Add in the risks of working in politically charged environments where you may well be a target for terrorists, and you can see why this is a dangerous job. In fact it has a fatality rate of around 32 per 100,000, and around 100 people a year die in the industry- around twice the average for all UK workers.

This risk, however, is reasonably rewarded - partly because of the fact it can be hard to attract workers to the places where oil and gas needs to be extracted. It's not uncommon for those with experience to be making £75,000 a year.

Put people up high, give them something heavy and awkward to carry, then get them to do it in the rain. It's not surprising this is a dangerous job. What is perhaps surprising is that over the past five years 30% of all work-related deaths in the UK have been in this industry. The riskiest construction jobs are those where heights are part of the every-day business of work - with scaffolders, steeplejacks ad roofers facing the most danger at work.

The pay starts around £20,000 for skilled workers, rising to around £50,000 for site managers.

Around 54,000 road accidents involving professional drivers take place on British roads every year - which is around 250 a day. Meanwhile, one in four of all road deaths involve a driver who is at work at the time. Despite stringent rules about how long they are allowed to drive for, and in-cab telematics to make sure they don't bend the rules, tiredness is the main cause. 

In return for the danger, plus the long hours and the anti-social lifestyle, these workers can expect to earn around £25,000 a year.

The risks are perhaps unsurprising, given that drowning accounts for the majority of fatalities. However there are also problems from high gas consumption and mental health problems, often due to having to spend inordinate times decompressing in a confined space with another individual.

However, given the risks, the inhospitable locations and the skills required, the role can earn you £100,000 a year or more.

These are often ex-military personnel employed to protect wealthy or powerful individuals. The role is unsurprisingly highly dangerous, with the constant threat of terrorist attacks, enemy fire or booby traps.

There really is danger money associated with this job, which is another role than can earn the right individual 6 figures a year.

Around 15 police officers lose their lives at work every year. However, surprisingly, the biggest risk is from involvement in a road accident, which causes 70% of the deaths. Around half of these are officers getting to and from work. Meanwhile no more than one or two are killed by criminals in an average year. Fatalities, however, are only a small proportion of the massive number of injuries a policeman can pick up - with roughly one police officer injured every hour.

In return they can expect to earn around £40,000, rising to £55,000 for senior officers.

Again there aren't a huge number of deaths in the line of duty. However, every fire is potentially fatal, and every job carries the risk of injury. Injures are very common, although burns account for only 5% of them, the rest tend to be due to things like training and carrying equipment.

The pay has been subject to a number of arguments and even strikes but is currently around £30,000.

Perhaps it's surprising that this doesn't come higher up the list. Since 2001 over 350 have lost their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The front line is clearly just about the most dangerous environment possible, and has to be up there with the place that most people would least like to work.

In return for putting their lives on the line in the service of their county, army personnel can expect to be paid £14,000 when they start out - rising to up to £100,000 for the most senior officers.

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