Health is everyone’s business: Government response to consultation is published

Just over 2 years ago, the government published a consultation paper seeking views on its proposals to reduce ill-health related job losses. The details are set out in our Be Aware of 15 July 2019.  Now, the government has finally published its response.

The response highlights the government’s desire to focus on supporting individuals to benefit from a preventative approach to ill-health. The government says that it wants to see employers creating healthier workplaces and offering the right support to their staff.  In this regard it will offer a balanced package of measures which will enable and encourage employers to take greater responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their employees. This will comprise increased government support including through improved information and advice and access to OH provision.

The key points for employers are:

  • The government has decided not to proceed with the introduction of the proposed right to request workplace modifications at this stage.  This new right would have permitted requests for workplace modifications on health grounds by employees who do not meet the Equality Act 2010 definition of being a “disabled person”, and would potentially have significantly widened employers’ obligations in relation to workplace adjustments.
  • HSE will explore ways to strengthen guidance on how employers can best support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions to remain in work, and on managing related sickness absence. HSE will strengthen existing non-statutory guidance before exploring the introduction of statutory guidance.
  • Reforms to SSP require further consideration. The government has decided that now is not the right time to introduce changes to the sick pay system.
  • The consultation on making flexible working the default position will be published in due course.

Other areas of interest include:

  • The government will ensure that better integrated health and disability-related information for employers is made accessible including developing a national information and advice service for employers on health, work and disability, with material designed to help manage common health and disability events in the workplace. Design work on this service is taking place during 2021.
  • The government will test a subsidy which will aim to gather evidence on whether targeted financial incentives improve access to OH and employment outcomes. This test will be robustly evaluated and findings, alongside developments in OH reform policies, and affordability, will inform the case for potential fixed term roll-out in the future.