13 October 2016

Businesses and organisations are being invited to bid for a share of £500,000 to help them develop ways of tackling short-term sickness absence in small to medium-sized firms.

The money is being offered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Innovate UK to fund innovative solutions which will help smaller businesses to manage sickness absence at an early stage.

Although the competition is open to any business or organisation, the DWP says that it is particularly suited to applicants from SMEs themselves. Consortia can apply, but one organisation must act as the lead applicant.

The “Managing sickness absence: funding for innovative solutions” project is seeking innovative proposals and will offer applicants with the most promising solutions a government contract to develop their product or service.

The project will be divided into two phases. It is anticipated that the first phase — for which bids are now invited — will comprise six individual contracts, each worth a maximum of £50,000.

To give some context to the competition, the DWP points out that “long spells of sickness absence can be life-changing for individuals, whilst sickness absence poses significant costs to businesses and government”.

Each year, some 130 million days are lost due to sickness absence, with the cost to business estimated to be £9 billion. Those who are on sick leave for four consecutive weeks are at greater risk of leaving their jobs, with 20% of people who reach six weeks of sick pay eventually leaving employment.

Applications to participate in the competition must be made by 16 December with contracts scheduled to start in March 2017. Full details can be found at dwp.bravosolution.co.uk.