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The UK lags behind other industrialised countries when it comes to helping sick and injured staff back to work and will continue to do so until it develops a more effective approach to rehabilitation. With the DWP due to publish its sickness absence review on Monday, the UK Rehabilitation Council (UKRC) is urging the government to take the lead in encouraging employers to develop proactive return-to-work strategies for staff who become unwell.

Sickness absence is estimated to cost the UK £26 billion p.a., with mental health problems being them number one cause of work-related illness. Long-term sick leave alone cost the UK economy £3.7 billion in 2009, according to the CBI.

“Our best employers are world-class when it comes to rehabilitation, but there aren’t enough of them. It doesn’t matter what other good things the government does, the sickness absence review will only work if it addresses the question of how to make our rehabilitation outcomes as good as those of other modern economies,” said UKRC chair Catherine McLoughlin.

“This means engaging the workplace and public in promoting the most effective rehabilitation and not just assuming the state will take care of it. Money invested in rehabilitation very quickly more than pays for itself through increased productivity and reduced reliance on benefits.”

As well as the hard financial gains of rehabilitation, there are wide range of softer benefits, such as improved staff morale, greater continuity and better customer relations.

UKRC has identified a number of factors that hold the UK back when it comes to workplace rehabilitation. These include:

• Short-sighted management, who see rehabilitation as an expense and distraction from other priorities;
• Disjointed and often inadequate public provision of rehabilitation services;
• Lack of understanding of the subject and of how to go about procuring rehabilitation services;
• Perverse financial incentives that discourage the use of rehabilitation;
• A lack of infrastructure to help SMEs have access to rehabilitation.

UKRC has written to government pressing the case for a rehabilitation strategy with a view to better co-ordination of resources, improved education for employers and public and more incentives for best practice.

“There are some wonderful examples of UK companies that have used rehabilitation to turn around their absence record and improve profitability, but we need more of them. We urge the government to take the lead,” said McLoughlin.

UKRC is a charity that acts as an umbrella group for people with an interest in vocational and clinical rehabilitation. Its members include representatives of medical and allied professions, employers, unions, legal groups, insurers and users of rehabilitation.
The UKRC has published Rehabilitation Standards for consumers, providers and purchasers, available free from their website:

The Council has also developed a straightforward guide for best practice in sickness absence management, called ‘the 10 Hallmarks of a Good Employer’, also available on its website.


For further press information or if you would like to speak with a UKRC spokesperson, please contact Parm Evans on 07501 462045 or email or Mark Baylis on 07775 693994, or email

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