Skip links
Published on: Press & Media

How Britain’s sick note culture made us the West’s most workshy nation

Illness benefit spending has surged in the wake of the pandemic, with many GPs feeling constrained by the system’s limitations

Currently, The UK stands alone among G7 nations in experiencing higher economic inertia post-pandemic, with the number of working-age adults neither employed nor seeking employment rapidly increasing

January saw nearly 9.5 million adults unemployed, marking the highest tally since 2011. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attributes this, in part, to benefits becoming a “lifestyle choice” for some.

To address this, the Government aims to “strengthen” assessments for those deemed unfit for work, intending to shift the responsibility of issuing sick notes – or “fit notes” – from GPs to as-yet-unspecified “specialist work and health professionals.”

However, advocating for an end to the “sick note culture” amidst 7.5 million people languishing on NHS waiting lists appears unrealistic. Dr. Edward Pooley, a GP in Nottingham, points out, “People are currently waiting between nine and 12 months for a hospital appointment and that carries a lot of sickness and illness, and sick note use,” he says. “If we get people seen quicker by hospitals, and operated on or seen by the right person, then they can get back to work quicker.”

Gemma Bullivant, an HR consultant and executive coach, identifies contemporary company culture as the real issue behind Britain’s deteriorating condition. She has seen a rise in clients claiming to have high levels of stress, triggered by a “fast pace of work, perceived inability to say no, lack of control or autonomy, vast amounts of information to consume and process, an inability to switch off and an ‘always on’ culture.”


Read the full article 

To read the full feature with The Telegraph, please see it here. If you are interested in learning more about this subject and Gemma’s commentary, please get in touch.