‘Wellbeing days’ and 52 weeks’ sick pay instead of 28, among ideas to combat stress at work

Think tank issued report saying allowing employees to take 'chill days' spontaneously would 'prevent the accumulation of stress and fatigue'

In a bid to reduce £23.5 billion sickness benefit bill, a think tank has revealed suggestions for employees to be allowed to ring up their employer at a moment’s notice to take a “wellbeing day”. The bill is expected to rise by a further £2.4bn by the end of the decade, so action needs to be taken promptly.

The Institute for Public Policy Research report also puts demands on ministers to pressurise companies to increase statutory sick pay from 28 to 52 weeks.

The wellbeing days are being pitched as “days which can be taken at extremely short notice or on the day itself, unlike regular periods of leave which must be booked in advance”.

The purpose of these days are proposed to “prevent the accumulation of stress and fatigue”.

However, Tory MP and small business champion Steve Baker blasted the recommendation saying “life must be nice on planet IPPR”.

He added: “Whoever suggested ultra-short notice chill out days can’t have ever run anything in their life”.

Tory MP Steve Baker hit out at the findings, saying whoever suggested chill out days ‘can’t ever have run anything’

The report also asked that the Government increase the current 28 weeks of maximum pay to 52 weeks.  The idea of the introduction of flexible “fit pay” to support sick employees getting back to work was also put forward.

Joe Dromey, IPPR senior research fellow, said: “More and more people are suffering from mental health conditions in work. But our sick pay system has failed to keep up with these changes.

“So, we’re calling for employers and the state to do more to keep people well in work.

“Our proposal for Fit Pay will do just that, helping employees who develop a health or mental health condition to manage their condition and stay in touch with work.”

Currently, half of all those claiming sickness benefit are receiving for help with a mental health condition – this figure is up from one in three ten years ago.

Dr Clare Gerada, former chair of the Royal College of GPs said it wasn’t solely up to doctors to support employees affected by mental health problems.

She said: “We’ve waited for people to fall ill, and fall out of work, before stepping in. As a result, we’ve failed to reduce the number of people out of work on health-related benefits.

“Employers need to play their part both in promoting the health and well-being of their workforce, and in supporting people back to work when they fall ill.”

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