New analysis by Legal & General, using Department of Work and Pensions statistics, shows the rise in the number of women claiming sickness benefits is much faster than the rise for men.

ESA is the government’s sickness benefit and is paid to people who cannot work because of ill-health.

The statistics have shown that;

Over the year from February 2010 to February 2011 the aggregate caseload for female ESA claimants increased by 39% compared to the male caseload, which grew by 26%.
The ESA caseload for women in February 2010 was 202,030 and by February 2011 it was 281,240. For men the equivalent figures are 277,400 and 350,120.

This follows the latest Labour Market statistics which revealed that the number of unemployed women increased by 41,000 in the last quarter to reach 1.06 million, a figure not reached since 1988. The number of unemployed men increased by 39,000.

The analysis has been conducted at a time when the government is reviewing the way it handles absence in the workplace. The review, announced by the Department of Work and Pensions, is led by Dame Carol Black and David Frost.

In light of the review, Legal & General have shown how Group Income Protection helps to deliver better workplace absence management. Workplace Recovery, Legal & General’s Group Income Protection product, has markedly improved return to work rates.

• In 2010 Legal & General saw 60% of individuals able to return to work within the first six months of absence, compared to 58% in 2009.
• When notified of the absence within six weeks, those able to return to work climbed to 69% compared to 52% when notified later.

The figures highlight the importance of early notification and reinforce the idea that six weeks is a tipping point in helping people get back to work. Early notification enables Legal & General to provide appropriate specialist treatment and support to help the individual back to work. Legal & General is the only company to incentivise employers that notify long term absences (those over four weeks) by the sixth week of absence. Since it was introduced 5 years ago, over £1.25 million has been paid back to companies as a reward for simply notifying absences early.

Commenting on the DWP statistics, Diane Buckley, Managing Director of L&G Group Protection, said:

“These figures show that some employers are struggling to cope with their staff’s illnesses at work and just how important it is to provide good quality support for women in the workplace.

“Group Income Protection offers real benefits to HR Professionals and can noticeably help to reduce absence rates by delivering specialist treatment and back to work support.”