Everyone will benefit from government welfare reforms

Businesses today know that their success depends on recruiting and keeping highly talented and committed individuals working in their organisations.
Getting the right staff can be a major headache. With an ever-tightening labour pool, the choice can sometimes be limited – making the loss of good staff even more frustrating.
So increasing the number of potential candidates available, and then helping employees stay in work, is high on the agenda for many HR managers.
Ensuring we make the best use of our most valuable resource, our people, is one driver for the proposed reforms of the welfare state.
The government wants to see those claiming incapacity benefits supported back to work, so that employers have a wider pool of talent from which to choose.
And it wants to improve the health of workplaces, helping sick people recuperate and return to work more easily.
Government proposals in A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work are now out for consultation.
Of the 2% of the population off sick every day, 120,000 a year currently move from sick pay to incapacity benefits.
Before long, one year rolls into two, and then people are more likely to die or retire than to work again.
Being away from work can lower self-esteem and damage confidence, reduce independence and further affect health and wellbeing. Yet these are often people with potentially manageable conditions. Of the 2.74 million people currently claiming incapacity benefits, 90% say they would work again with the right type of help.
So why should employers give these willing workers a chance?
There are strong economic arguments. With the labour pool shrinking, employers can no longer ignore this untapped resource. Individuals may be on benefits today, but many have extensive work experience and valuable qualifications.
And getting more people into employment is the only way the country can cope with the pressures of an ageing society.
Also, the government has made it easier for businesses to get practical help. For example, the ‘Access to Work’ initiative can fund adaptations to make the workplace more accessible.
And its ‘Health, Work and Wellbeing Strategy’ is designed to build healthier workplaces to protect employees and help employers enjoy a healthy workforce.
This month’s consultation goes further:
<2002>It sets out to simplify statutory sick pay to reduce the burden on business.
<2002>It shows that businesses can operate effective sickness absence management programmes by encouraging employees to return to work, for example, by allowing them to work part time.
<2002>It proposes to shift the resources we currently use to compensate employers for high levels of sickness absence and invest further in additional support, particularly for small employers to manage sickness absence more effectively.
Measures such as early intervention help an early return to work. Healthier workplaces reduce sickness absence and can result in lower insurance premiums.
So the government will continue to work closely with the insurance industry, employers and unions to improve the chances of employees making a speedier return to work.
The government wants to hear your views. To help ensure the future health and competitiveness of the UK economy, send your comments to: The Welfare Reform Team, Level 2, The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, London WC2 (or e-mail: welfarereform@
dwp.gsi.gov.uk).

BOXTEXT: To see the consultation paper, A new deal for welfare: Empowering
people to work, go to www.dwp.gov.uk/aboutus/welfarereform


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