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19 February 2018

83: Government publishes ten year strategy for reform of health at work

The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health have published ‘Improving lives – The Future of Work, Health and Disability’, a report setting out a ten year programme to reform the employment prospects of those with disabilities and long term health conditions, and to promote well-being in the workplace.

The reforms focus on three main areas: creating a healthy and inclusive workforce; ensuring access to effective health advice; and operating a sustainable welfare and employment support system.

Key proposals of particular relevance to employers include:

  • improve advice and support for employers of all sizes, including enhancing the Access to Work and the Disability Confident schemes;
  • identify the key skills needed by line managers to create an inclusive and supportive work environment;
  • increase transparency by establishing a framework for voluntary reporting on mental health and disability for employers with more than 500 employees;
  • reform statutory sick pay to extend eligibility criteria and enable flexible and phased returns to work;
  • consider introducing a right to return following a period of sickness absence;
  • commence a comprehensive programme of analysis and research to look at the wider framework of incentives and expectations relevant to employers’ decisions on managing staff health and well-being, including considering whether to introduce financial incentives for SMEs which offer occupational health services to employees;
  • appoint an Expert Working Group on Occupational Health to consider reform of occupational health services in order to improve the quality of existing provision and ensure that they are readily accessible to all;
  • encourage healthcare professionals to provide advice on returning to work, potential adjustments and managing health or disability in the workplace; and
  • reform the fit note system, for example, by extending fit note certification powers to other healthcare professionals; developing a set of competencies for those completing fit notes; considering the feasibility of clinical guidelines for workplace adjustments for the top five clinical reasons employees are absent from work; and integrating fit note training into GP education.

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