The government has announced plans to launch a task group devoted to exploring the reasons for sickness absence and helping ill people to return to work.
Comprising government figures, businesses, customers and insurers, the group will research ways of helping the ill and injured to stay in or return to their jobs and reduce the annual cost of sickness absence, which is currently about £13 billion.
It will also look into the provision of occupational health and vocational rehabilitation services and find ways of encouraging their take-up.
"Rehabilitation is not about forcing people back to work. Work, in fact, is often a crucial step in helping people return to full health. And businesses have much to gain in terms of reduced sickness absence and improved staff engagement and retention," commented Department for Work and Pensions minister Lord McKenzie.
According to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry and insurance provider AXA, long-term sickness absence makes up about 43 per cent of all illness-related lost working time.