Measures to improve employment retention

From July to October the Government held a consultation on their proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss. Inclusion London has responded.

The Government consultation

The consultation brief stated:

“This consultation seeks views on different ways in which government and employers can take action to reduce ill health-related job loss. Disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are at greater risk of falling out of work. The proposals aim to support and encourage early action by employers for their employees with long-term health conditions, and improve access to quality, cost-effective occupational health.
The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care want to understand the effect of these proposals on:

  • business
  • individuals
  • the occupational health profession”

Inclusion London’s response

Inclusion London has responded and some of our key points and recommendations  are given below:

Social model of Disability

We use the term Disabled people in the response to include those people with health conditions who face barriers at work, but do not meet the criteria in section 6 of the Equality Act 2010.   We believe all people with impairments and health conditions that face barriers at work are Disabled and should be protected from discrimination.

New right to modifications

We agreed with the proposal that a new right to request work modifications on health grounds is put in place. This right needs to be set in law and aligned as much as possible with the duty to make adjustments in the Equality Act 2010.

Any barriers that either prevent a person from returning to work after sick leave or prevent them from maintaining and progressing in their employment needs to be acted on by the employer after a discussion and with the agreement of the employee backed up by legislation.

Flexible working for all employees

We recommend that adjustments to remove barriers such as flexible working are available to all employees. If barriers are removed for all employees then the possibility that Disabled people not covered by the Equality Act are seen as receiving special conditions and becoming stigmatised are more likely to be avoided.

Recommendation: A positive culture towards Disabled people (both those covered by Equality Act and those that are not), is promoted by government and employers in both public and private sector organisations so the barriers to employment are removed and adjustments needed by employees become normal practice.

Government’s role in promoting healthy work

We believe that government also has a role to promote work that is good for employee’s health and wellbeing.

Sanctions and erroneous welfare benefit assessment decisions are counterproductive and likely to erode the ability of people to prepare and be successful at job interviews.

Recommendation: The DWP changes the welfare benefit assessment system and abolishes sanctions so people are not forced into work that is detrimental to their health and so the need for sick leave becomes less likely.

Good quality work promoting health and wellbeing

There is a link between the quality of employment and health:

Recommendations:
Employers ensure their working conditions promote health and wellbeing. Government ensures that there is legislation in place which is enforced, so working conditions facilitates health and wellbeing and so the era of in work poverty and insecure work with no prospects ends.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

We agree with a legal framework for a phased return to work.  We also agree with the following proposals in the consultation document that SSP is reformed which include:

  • amending the rules of SSP to allow for phased returns to work following sickness absence;
  • widening eligibility for SSP to extend protection to those on the lowest incomes
  • strengthening compliance and enforcement of SSP to ensure employees are paid what they are due’

We agree there needs to be a robust approach and employers should be fined if they fail to meet their SSP obligations.

Disability leave

We recommend that time off for issues related to a Disabled person’s impairment or long term health conditions is taken as ‘disability leave’ not as sick leave, as a reasonable adjustment to give equality of opportunity.  ‘Disability leave’, could include, for example, time off for GP/hospital appointments, treatment, rehabilitation therapy, waiting for adjustments to be executed and other leave associated with a person’s impairment or long term health condition. We suggest that Disabled people not covered by the Equality Act are treated in a similar way.

Conclusion

We hope the publication of this consultation paper heralds a new era of support for adjustments to enable employment to be obtained and maintained by all Disabled people including those not covered by the Equality Act.

Inclusion London’s full response is available here: IL employment retention consultation response

More information about the consultation is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/health-is-everyones-business-proposals-to-reduce-ill-health-related-job-loss/health-is-everyones-business-proposals-to-reduce-ill-health-related-job-loss