Government Reforms (3):  Sickness absence and disability – Consultation

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In June the Government announced (see here) Theresa May’s intention to introduce new measures to tackle injustices faced by disabled people. The measures include overhauling statutory sick pay and greater workplace support, publishing new national outcomes data for disabled people and establishing a cross-Government disability team.

The Government has now published a consultation (available here) on ways to reduce ill-health-related job loss in the UK.  The consultation seeks views on a number of proposals which aim to encourage employers to take early action to support staff with long-term health conditions and help them stay in work.  The proposals include:

  • A right for employees to request work(place) modifications on health grounds: Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments where an employee with a disability is placed at a substantial disadvantage. The consultation suggests also allowing employees to request that modifications are made even where the employee doesn’t meet the legal definition of disabled. However, in these circumstances, the employer would be able to refuse a request for workplace modifications on legitimate business grounds.
  • Reform of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): The proposed changes would enable an employee returning from a period of sickness absence to have a flexible, phased return to work while still receiving some SSP.  Also, those employees who do not qualify for SSP (as they earn below the Lower Earnings Limit) would receive a proportion of their wage as SSP. Additionally, there are proposals to increase the fines for failure to pay SSP where it is due, and the inclusion of the enforcement of SSP within the remit of a proposed new, enforcement body.
  • Ways of improving the use of Occupational Health (OH) services by employers: The Government is seeking views on ways to reduce the costs, increase market capacity and improve the value and quality of OH services.

The consultation ends on 7 October 2019.