Doctors UK
The DWP said it is expected to save employers £70m a year and cut the time people spend off work by 20% to 40%Reuters

A staggering 960,000 UK workers were off sick for a month or more each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, more than 130 million days are still being lost to sickness absence every year in Britain and working-age ill health costs the national economy £100bn per year.

The Health and Work Service, the UK government's new wellbeing programme, will aid employees who have been on sickness absence for four weeks to return to work and support employers to better manage sickness absence among their workforce.

The DWP said it is expected to save employers £70m a year and cut the time people spend off work by 20% to 40%.

"As part of the government's long-term economic plan, we are taking action to improve get people back into work," said Mike Penning, the Minister of State for Work and Pensions.

He added: "This is a triple-win. It will mean more people with a job, reduced cost for business, and a more financially secure future for Britain."

The DWP said the Health and Work Service will offer a work-focused occupational health assessment and case management to employees in the early stages of sickness absence.

The government explained GPs will be able to refer employees for assessment by the new service once they are absent, or expected to be absent, from work due to illness for four weeks.

Employers can also refer employees.

The work-focused occupational health assessment will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.

The plan will include a timetable for a return to work, fitness for work advice, as well as signpost to appropriate help.

The DWP said employees will be supported throughout their time with the service, so they can return to work as soon as they are able to.

It will also provide an advice service on the internet and telephone for anyone who needs it.