A recent Government Green Paper, titled ‘Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper’, has set out a range of policy options for shrinking the disability employment gap, reducing state spending on health-related benefits, and, ultimately, allowing everyone the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
The Paper says that almost one in three working-age people in the UK have a long-term health condition which puts their participation in work at risk, and that around one in five of the working-age population has a mental health condition. Therefore, it continues, it is evident that “too many people are falling into a downward spiral of declining health and being out of work” and more needs to be done on behalf of employers.
We spoke to Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, about his thoughts on the Green Paper: “Whilst it is laudable that the Department for Work and Pensions has issued this Green Paper with a clear mandate for those with disabilities to be retained in the workplace, and supported, the challenges faced by employers are only set to increase. “At the moment, employers’ obligations are limited to paying Statutory Sick Pay and complying with the Equality Act (2010). But, going forward, retention of disabled employees will become imperative as the Government tries to restrict the number of people living on state disability benefits. Approximately two and a half million people currently claim state disability benefits, and around 250,000 to 350,000 people try to claim them every year.
“To enter the system, it’s massively complex. The ESA1 form is around 50 pages, so for an individual with mental health that produces its own challenge. The assessment process is based on a point-based system, looking at what individuals can do, rather than what they can’t. For example, the assessment centre may be upstairs, 200 metres from a bus stop.
“So, it clearly is looking at what individuals can do versus what they can’t. The system has become so complex: last time I checked there were 700,000 people are waiting for the assessment itself. The good news for people with specific conditions is they are not going to routinely be reassessed, albeit whether that is for the right reasons i.e. they will never return to work, or whether that is because the system of assessment is broken, it’s harder to ascertain. All that effort is for people to get £3,801 per annum, of income. So, people off sick from October 2016 will be on the new amounts, as it cuts in after 28 weeks. The question is, can anyone live off £3,801?”
On the next page Avis will discuss the additional employer obligations that these changes could mean...