Workers could be denied sick notes in bid to boost economy

The government could tell doctors to sign fewer sick people off work as part of a bid to boost the flagging performance of Britain’s economy.

People deemed ill enough to get a sick note would instead be “helped” to remain in work under plans under reported by The Telegraph and under consideration in Whitehall.

Ministers, including chancellor Jeremy Hunt, have voiced concerns about increasing levels of economic inactivity in the economy – as well as the number of people signed off work with long-term conditions.

Now the government is considering changing advice to GPs to encourage people to stay in employment and stress the “benefits of work”.

Official figures in the Labour Force Survey show that 2.32 million people were signed off with long-term health conditions last summer, up from 1.95 million before the pandemic in 2019.

A government source told the Telegraph newspaper: “The mental health benefits of work are well established. We want to do all we can to encourage as many people as possible to stay in work with the relevant support in place to help them do so, including signposting them to that support at the earliest possible opportunity.”

It comes after the chancellor announced he would push 600,000 further people in work but claiming universal credit to meet regularly with a “work coach” – in a move aimed to increase hours or earnings.

The backdrop to the measures is the weak economic performance by the UK compared to its neighbours, partly driven by a shortage of workers.

The Bank of England’s August 2022 Monetary Policy Report noted that labour demand was now above pre-pandemic levels, but while labour supply was still below pre-pandemic levels.

The situation is thought to have been exacerbated by Brexit cutting off the free movement of people – and the government is now looking for other ways to increase the labour supply.

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