Research: how legislation is affecting workplace health and wellbeing

The Welfare Reform Act 2007 has had no impact on most employers, but Dame Carol Black’s report has prompted action, says Debi O’Donovan


The Welfare Reform Act 2007, which came into effect in October 2008, contains the powers to replace incapacity benefits with an employment support allowance. People claiming this state benefit will undergo a capability assessment, which will focus on what work those with longterm health conditions can do. The legislation is intended to reduce the number of people claiming incapacity benefits by tightening up eligibility and encouraging them back into the workplace.

The government is expecting employers to become more actively involved in rehabilitating staff on long-term absence back to work. This research, conducted six months on from the introduction of the Act, indicates it has had some impact on a small proportion of employers, but for the majority it has had no impact. This majority falls into two distinct groups – those with good practice already implemented, and those that offer little currently and are unlikely to do much in the future.


Measures outlined in Dame Carol Black’s report, Working for a healthier tomorrow, which are to be implemented by the government include the introduction of the electronic fit note (to replace the paper-based sick note), and fit-for-work services to support people on long-term sickness absence to return to work.

The government recommendations were announced only in November, so it is still early days to measure their impact. However, even at this stage, the research shows that the majority (59%) of employers expect to have to review or to implement return-to-work and rehabilitation programmes.

About one-fifth expect to have to provide access to more occupational health services, and a similar number feel under pressure to offer staff more wellbeing perks.

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Click on the links below for more sections:

Research: who are the respondents; key findings
Research: attitudes to health and wellbeing
Research: the package
Research: what impact health and wellbeing perks have on sickness absence
Research: strategies to deal with employee stress
Research: healthcare costs and calculating return on investment