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Government consultation – Sep 2019

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Government consultation on reducing ill health related job loss

The government have recently opened a consultation on proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss and to support people to thrive in the workplace. Whilst there are arguments that employers need to do more to support their employees who are currently managing health conditions, the government consultation also looks at ways as to how they can provide more support to employers to enable them to assist employees to return to the workplace after a period of sickness absence.

The consultation discusses a number of proposals which includes, amongst others;

  • Reforming Statutory Sick Pay; and
  • A right to request reasonable workplace adjustments

Reforming Statutory Sick Pay

The government have proposed reforming Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) to make it more flexible and available to all employees. The proposed changes include;

  • Amending the rules of SSP to allow employees to return to work on a phased return following a period of sickness absence;
  • Removing the Lower Earning Limit requirement that employees must earn at least £118 per week to be eligible for SSP;
  • Strengthening compliance and enforcement of SSP to ensure that eligible employees are paid what they are entitled to.

In addition to this the consultation is also considering how an SSP rebate for small and medium sized businesses might assist them in supporting their employees with long-term conditions to return to work.

Reasonable workplace adjustments

Currently, under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees to avoid them being placed at a substantial disadvantage due to their disability. Another proposal the government is considering is whether to introduce a right for employees who are not covered under the Equality Act to request reasonable adjustments to their workplace on health grounds to assist them to return to work after a period of sickness absence.

The government have suggested that adjustments that could potentially be deemed reasonable for employers to undertake could include, but not be limited to:

  • Having a conversation about the employee’s need for adjustments;
  • Keeping a written record of any conversations between the employer and employee in regards to potential adjustments;
  • Seeking expert advice from occupational health services to support decision making; and
  • Adjustments to working hours or patterns, duties or to the physical working environment.

They have also suggested that eligibility criteria would need to be established so that short-term absences would not trigger the right to request an adjustment.  Some suggestions that have been proposed are that employees would need to have had experienced a long-term absence of at least 4 weeks or more to be eligible, or alternatively that they have had a cumulative total of four weeks sickness absence.

At FTA Law we can offer advice on all aspects of an employer’s duties towards their employees, including providing advice on Statutory Sick Pay and reasonable adjustments. Please contact us on 0330 088 2275 for further information.

The team at FTA Law provides advice to clients across the commercial and healthcare sectors with many of our instructions coming from referrals from long standing clients and industry contacts.

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