The government has introduced a new two-year pilot scheme under which those in the UK who receive sickness benefits will attend regular appointments with occupational health providers to assess their ability to work. Failure to do so could result in the withdrawal of these benefits.
According to government figures, assessments show that approximately 3,000 of those receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) should be able to return to the workplace in the next 18 months or so. These individuals will be instructed to meet with medical practitioners or occupational health companies as a condition of their benefit payments.
These meetings are not designed to root out the ‘work shy’, but to encourage those who have been out of work due to long-term illness or injury to return to some form of employment. It is hoped that by speaking to an occupational health provider, any barriers to returning to work can be addressed and that an adequate level of support is provided. The length and frequency of these meetings would depend on the needs of each individual.
Employment Minister Mark Hoban explained: “We need to ensure that people who are able to work get the encouragement they need to get a job, while those who are too sick to work get real support.
“Many people on sickness benefits want to work, so it’s vitally important that we give them the right help to move into a job if they are able. The help we give people at the moment tends to focus on work-related skills, but doesn’t necessarily address health problems. But by giving people regular support from doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists we can do more to help people manage or improve their conditions.”
These pilot schemes will run from November 2013 until August 2016 and will be funded by the European Social Fund.