The government is to take steps to reform the fit note process to support more people to resume work after a period of illness.
Announced in today’s Autumn Statement by Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, trials in a small number of Integrated Care Systems in England will test changes to increase access to health and employment support and referrals for those who have received a fit note for a prolonged period of time, as well as new designs of the fit note form.
In 2024, the government will also consult on wider reforms to examine options for improving fit note assessments for individuals whose health affects their ability to work, and integrating quicker access to specialised employment and health support for a return to work.
This is designed to combat the fact that there are now 2.6 million people who are economically inactive due to long-term sickness and disability, almost half a million more than before the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition, the government will expand the Universal Support programme that matches those with health conditions and disabilities with job vacancies, as well as the NHS Talking Therapies programme, and Individual Placement and Support, to help people with mental health conditions. It will work with employers and business representatives to develop and promote best employment practices to support employees with health and disability issues.
Dave Capper, chief executive officer of Westfield Health, said: “The Chancellor said many times in the lead-up to the Autumn Statement that the government was serious about tackling the long-term sickness crisis facing our country, and that helping people stay in work would be a top priority. Workplace health and wellbeing must be at the centre of any government response to the long-term sickness crisis.
“We would like to see the government go further and invest in new initiatives designed to increase wellbeing support for employees in the workplace. We ask that this includes clear guidance for employers on how they can support their employees’ physical and mental health, preferably in the form of a legally binding and regulated framework, as well as clearer routes to access for employees.”