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British Prime Minister Sunak is considering revisions to rules governing long-term sick leave

British PM Sunak talks to the media (Via David Rosenberg/Shutterstock)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering changes to the rules about long-term sick leave, aiming to address concerns about people leaving the workforce permanently.

Recent data shows fewer working-age Britons are participating in the workforce, marking the lowest point since 2015.

This decline is linked to more long-term illnesses and an increase in students, which differs from trends in other large, wealthy nations.

Sunak is particularly worried about the growing number of people unable to work due to mental health issues. He believes there should be a more active approach to helping them return to work.

He wants less emphasis on medicalizing everyday challenges and concerns.

Official figures show 9.4 million Britons aged 16 to 64, 22% of this age group, are neither employed nor unemployed—up from before the pandemic. Of these, 2.8 million are long-term sick, and 206,000 are temporarily ill.

Rishi Sunak (Via Steve Parker/Getty Images)

A report from budget experts points out that many on long-term sick leave are waiting for medical treatment, which could help them get back to work.

More than half of these individuals report mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or nervousness, often alongside other health issues.

Sunak’s proposed changes aim to focus more on people’s ability to work than their illness, with tailored support to help them return to employment.

He suggests looking into the idea of moving responsibility for assessments from family doctors to healthcare professionals who can objectively evaluate someone’s ability to work and offer the right support.

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