The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has today (15 July 2019) launched a consultation to discuss methods of supporting sick and disabled staff, particularly those in the lowest paid positions.
The consultation, which will be canvassing the views of both employers and health providers, will consider lowering the threshold at which employees are eligible for statutory sick pay.
Currently, an individual must earn at least £118 per week to receive statutory sick pay, the equivalent of 14 hours on minimum wage. The national minimum wage is currently set at £8.21 per hour for employees aged 25 and over, £7.70 for those between 21 and 24, and £6.15 for individuals aged between 18 and 20, while staff aged below 18 receive £4.35 per hour.
The consultation will also discuss a potential rebate for smaller businesses to help them effectively manage sickness absence.
The government will also be considering whether to change the legal guidance around how early an employer can intervene during a staff member’s sickness absence, and how to make statutory sick pay more flexible, covering elements such as mental health as well as physical.
In addition, the consultation will ask for opinions on how to improve and reduce the high costs of occupational health services, particularly for smaller organisations.
Amber Rudd, work and pensions secretary, said: “With three in five employers facing challenges when supporting employees to return to work, it’s time that we took a closer look at how businesses can retain staff.
“Good work is good for our mental and physical health, and by working closely with employers we can help prevent the loss of talent when people unnecessarily leave the workplace.”
Matt Hancock, health secretary, added: “Too many still face challenges returning to work after sick leave. We need to remove the barriers that stop people with disabilities or health conditions from reaching their full potential; these steps will help us achieve that.
“Businesses will also benefit from being able to retain talent, and build workplaces that support the physical and mental health needs of their employees.”
Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “With the UK’s productivity performance under the spotlight, many employers know that a well-thought-out health and wellbeing strategy can help boost performance and make their [organisation] a better place to work.
“Adding greater flexibility to statutory sick pay so it supports mental as well as physical health makes sense and reflects the reality that 1 in 4 people will experience such an illness each year.”
Prerana Issar, chief people officer at NHS England, said: “Helping people manage their health while at work through common sense measures like sickness absence management and occupational health services, is good for employees, better for employers and ultimately supports both the NHS and the economy.
“Today’s consultation is an important step in helping businesses to support their workers’ health and wellbeing, and while the NHS will continue to help people when they need it through our Long Term Plan, we will be able to do even more with strong backing from employers.”