‘This idea is not as bizarre as it sounds’

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Have your say

IT is right that the city council is taking tough action to tackle the soaring sickness rate among workers.

Operating with an absence rate of almost five per cent would be of serious concern to any employer, and is made worse by the drain on tax- payers’ money.

The public perception is that a large proportion of these absences will be staff pulling sickies in a soft-touch workplace. In truth, there will be many underlying reasons for the figure, and the only way to address it is to get to the root of the problem.

Which is why the move today to employ a private firm, FirstCare, to screen sick calls is not as bizarre as it sounds.

Under the pilot scheme, a member of staff calling in sick is referred to a nurse who will be able to give advice, as well as no doubt helping to determine the validity of the illness.

There are obviously pros and cons here. The big one being how much is it going to cost and will that cost be offset by the savings it will produce.

Staff having instant access to medical help may well speed up their recovery but it is also in danger of becoming unnecessarily bureaucratic in an organisation which can do without any more red tape.

Having said that, anyone planning to stay in bed after one too many the night before may well think twice before having to go through the rigmarole of a telephone interview.

We will watch the progress of this trial with interest and trust the results will be scrutinised and debated before any public money is committed to taking it forward.

Above all, it is vital to have safeguards in place to ensure that workers with genuine problems are given the help and support they need. But it is also vital to ensure that those who are abusing the system – and costing us all money – are given their marching orders.

Welcome Relief

whether you are more inspired by David Walliams’ marathon swim down the Thames or the BBC’s Great British Bake Off you will find there is something for everyone in Sports Relief 2012.

But most importantly, all the fund- raising efforts will help improve life in communities up and down the country, including in the Lothians.

This year the Evening News has teamed up with Sport Relief to help distribute £50,000 worth of community grants.

Times are hard, especially for voluntary groups and charities, so come on folks, make the most of it, and make sure you get your application in. You will find full details of how to apply on page 15 of today’s paper.