Government urges employers to help transform sick pay

Employers are being urged to shape proposals to transform support for disabled people and those on long-term sick leave.

The end of August marks the halfway point in the work and health consultation, which is looking at how to create healthier workplaces by supporting more employers to help disabled people and those with health conditions to stay and thrive in work.

The suggested changes would see Britain’s lowest paid employees become eligible for Statutory Sick Pay for the first time, with small businesses potentially being offered a sick pay rebate for effectively managing employees on sick leave and helping them back into work.

The government wants to evaluate the effect of its proposals on businesses, individuals and the occupational health profession and is urging them to provide feedback through the consultation, which runs for another 6 weeks.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:

I’m calling on employers from across the country to tell us what they think about our proposals to transform support for sick and disabled staff.

Sickness absence currently costs British employers £9 billion a year. By helping those on long-term sick leave to keep their job, we are not only supporting employees, we are also supporting employers.

Our consultation is a welcome step towards improving working practices and ensuring that disabled people and those with health conditions receive the support they need to stay in work.

Each year more than 100,000 people leave work following a spell of long-term sickness absence lasting at least 4 weeks.

Other proposals include encouraging early action by employers to support individuals when they are off work, facilitating more workplace modifications, improving the availability of occupational health services and improving advice so that employers understand and are able to act to support employees.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

Making sure our small firms get the right support to nurture and empower those with a disability is vital in creating inclusive communities.

Putting a Statutory Sick Pay rebate onto the agenda is the right thing to do, and it should be the cornerstone of a new package of measures that injects confidence in the small business community to continue being a great route for employment, particularly for those who have a disability.

This will not only be instrumental in retaining staff but will also help attracting staff.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said:

The government’s consultation contains far-reaching proposals to improve the employment prospects of people with a health condition, and the CIPD welcomes the planned reforms.

Many people with a health condition are currently unable to get the support they need to access or remain in work, and we need a big step change to develop fully inclusive workplaces. The consultation puts forward a holistic package of measures that could help, such as introducing a more flexible approach to Statutory Sick Pay that would enable a phased return to work.

However, careful thought is needed about how these proposals could work in practice, such as who should be eligible to request a workplace modification and on what grounds this could be refused. Therefore, it’s vital that organisations take this opportunity to give feedback.