The government claimed the new scheme could save employers £160m a year Reuters

The UK's HR managers have rejected the government's proposed sickness absence scheme, claiming the service is not needed.

The health and work assessment and advisory programme, which is due to be introduced next year, is designed to provide advice and support to employers dealing with employees suffering from long-term sickness absence.

The government has claimed the scheme will save businesses up to £160m ($263m, €193m) a year in statutory sick pay.

But a study conducted by insurer PMI Health Group, which questioned 58 HR managers from medium to large firms under the veil of anonymity, discovered that a vast majority (86%) of respondents were not confident that the service will fulfil their occupational health requirements.

The research found eight in ten (81%) of companies already provide staff and management with access to an occupational health service.

"The health and work assessment and advisory service could be a step in the right direction," said Mike Blake, director, PMI Health Group.

"However, given a majority of employers already provide access to an occupational health service, the suggestion is they have adequate processes in place.

"The government service will only provide advice to employers when staff have been absent for more than four weeks, so will not help them in monitoring the ongoing health of their staff and developing preventative methods to reduce absence."

The survey also revealed that 33% of HR managers claim to consult an occupational physician in every case of long-term absence, with a further 53% doing so occasionally.

In cases of short-term absence, 12% always refer employees to an occupational physician and 59% do so occasionally.

When seeking advice from a GP in cases of employee absence, only one in ten (9%) of HRs regularly find the advice given to be useful.

But the Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud has previously said long-term sickness absence is a burden to "business, to the taxpayer and to the thousands of people on benefits".

"All employers, big or small, will have access to a service that offers the early support they need to keep people in work and fulfil their aspirations," he explained.

"[The scheme is] further proof that this government is confronting all the challenges facing Britain and making sure we compete and thrive in the global race."