All non-disabled employees could soon have a new right to request workplace modifications to assist in their return from sick leave. This new government consultation seeks views on this new right and other measures to reduce ill health-related job loss, giving emphasis on greater employer responsibility and involvement. The three key reforms on which the consultation seeks views are:
- A new right to request workplace modifications on return from sick leave – It is proposed that the right will operate in a similar way to the current right to request flexible working subject to the key difference that work (place) modifications may be more likely to be short-term, unanticipated or urgent. Employers would therefore be entitled to refuse a request on legitimate business grounds and there would be a timetable for the decision making process (all set out in a new Code of Practice). The right would be separate from the right to request flexible working, as well as separate from the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 for disabled employees.
- A major reform to the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) scheme – Concerns that the current SSP scheme is outdated and fails to provide adequate benefits to part time employees, the government is seeking views on the following reforms:
- Pro-rata SSP to facilitate a phased return to work
- SSP for workers earning less than the lower earnings limit (currently £118 per week)
- Simpler and fairer rules on qualifying days and waiting days, particularly for those working irregular shifts
- Tougher enforcement measures
- Greater notice from employers to warn employees that their SSP is due to end
- A system of rebates to help smaller employers
- Improvements in and greater access to Occupational Health Services (OHS)- including targeted subsidies or vouchers to support small businesses and the self-employed to access OHS
What should HR do next?
- Consider responding to the consultation which ends on 7 October 2019
- Look out for the UK government’s response to the consultation later in 2019
- Review sick leave and return to work policies depending on the UK government’s response