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Lowest paid set to receive sick pay for the first time

Written by: Emma Lunn
The government has started a consultation to transform support for sick and disabled staff.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd and health secretary Matt Hancock have set out new measures to transform how employers support and retain disabled staff and those with a health condition.

Under the new measures the lowest paid employees would be eligible for statutory sick pay for the first time, while small businesses may be offered a sick pay rebate to reward those who effectively manage employees on sick leave and help them get back to work.

Currently, the lowest paid people in the UK are not eligible for sick pay – it’s only available to people earning more than £118 a week, which equates to about 14 hours on the minimum wage. Two million people, most of whom will be part-time workers, earn less than that.

Getting people back to work

The government is also looking at making statutory sick pay more flexible, as it seeks to reduce the number of people quitting work after a period of sickness.

Each year more than 100,000 people leave their job following a period of sickness absence lasting at least four weeks, according to government figures. The longer somebody is on sickness absence the more likely they are to fall out of work, with 44 per cent of people who had been off sick for a year then leaving employment altogether.

The proposals include guidance to employers to take “early, proportionate and reasonable steps to support an employee to return to work, before dismissing them on health grounds”.

Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said: “I want Britain to be an environment where disabled people and those with health conditions can thrive, not just survive – not only in work but every area of their lives.

“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, the health secretary, said: “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.”

Early intervention is key

Evidence shows that early intervention by an employer is important in reducing the number of people leaving the workforce for health reasons. Employers can use simple, low-cost measures such as making flexible adjustments to someone’s working pattern or keeping in touch with people while they are on sick leave.

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “Managing sickness absence effectively and reducing it through proactive health and wellbeing initiatives and policies makes good business sense. Where this helps disabled people to contribute their best at work it can also be an important part of employers’ diversity and inclusion efforts.”

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