The government has created a taskforce to look at ways to improve the rehabilitation of ill or injured workers, including widening access to occupational health and improving incentives for employers to invest in workplace health.
The vocational rehabilitation task group, which will be led by workplace health ‘tsar’ Dame Carol Black, will be made up of government officials and representatives from the general public, businesses and insurers.
Its aim, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, is to identify what services are currently available, why businesses do not provide more support and what needs to be done to increase understanding and ensure wider provision.
In particular, the taskforce will be looking at why it is that so few employers offer occupational health or vocational rehabilitation to their employees.
The group will gather and assess data, including costs and benefits, on a range of issues, including:
- the existing provision of occupational health and vocational rehabilitation services by employers
- reasons why occupational health and vocational rehabilitation services are not provided by employers
- incentives that would be successful in encouraging wider take-up of occupational health and vocational rehabilitation services by employers (such as tax relief)
- methods, tools and products that would support and encourage a wider take-up.
A report assessing the current position is set to be published later this year. This will be followed next year by proposals for mechanisms, tools or incentives to encourage a wider take-up of occupational health and vocational rehabilitation services by employers, plus a supporting cost-benefit analysis, the DWP said.
Launching the task group, DWP minister Lord McKenzie said: “Rehabilitation is not about forcing people back to work. Work, in fact, is often a crucial step in helping people return to health. And businesses have much to gain in terms of reduced sickness absence, and improved staff engagement and retention.
“But very few employers offer occupational health or vocational rehabilitation,” he said. “This taskforce will identify why this is the case, what barriers are preventing wider provision, and what needs to be done to change this.”