Autumn Statement: Government to reform work capability assessments

Government publishes further guidance on Job Retention SchemeThe government is to reform work capability assessments so more individuals receive the right support to find work where they can.

Announced in today’s Autumn Statement by Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the activities and descriptors in work capability assessments for new claimants will be updated to support long-term sick and disabled, and long-term unemployed people. This is to ensure that those with limited mobility and mental health conditions are not automatically deemed unable to work or told to look for work.

According to the government, implementation is likely to occur from 2025.

Its Back to Work plan, supported by more than £2.5 billion in funding over the next five years, will help people look for and stay in work, manage their health conditions, and stem the flow into sickness-related inactivity.

Matt Monette, country lead and head of expansion, UK and Ireland, at Deel, said: “While it’ll be encouraging for HR leaders to see the government implementing measures that support benefits claimants suffering with mobility and mental health problems return to work, they’ll be far too familiar with some of the bigger hiring challenges that businesses will continue to face.

“The Chancellor’s back to work plan fails to recognise those parents and caregivers who are able to offer a significant contribution to the workforce, but need further flexibility in order to do so. For hiring managers looking for more than a band-aid fix to staff shortages, then we need to focus on supporting businesses to embrace flexible working and offer additional benefits and support including in childcare and mental health.”

Bertrand Stern-Gillet, chief executive officer at Health Assured, added: “The back to work plan announced with treatment not time off as the default sounds promising on paper, but the reality could be very different. I will be interested to see what support the government is planning to put in place for small organisations employing people coming back into work from long-term sickness. It could be somewhat naïve to look at working from home as a miraculous cure for all those with mental health and mobility conditions.

“For those already struggling with poor mental health, this plan could have a devastating impact if the correct support mechanisms are not put in place, including an occupational health provision. Instead, each employee should be considered on an individual basis, looking at their specific circumstances and requirements. Only in this way will employers be able truly to carry out their duty of care.”