Minister admits ‘fit for work’ recommendation of Black Review is on the agenda

The government is already looking into the feasibility of piloting a ‘fit for work’ service, one of the key planks of the Black Review.

National director for health and work Dame Carol Black’s Working for a Healthier Tomorrow review called in March for a network of ‘fit for work’ centres to offer rehabilitation services independently from employers.

The government is not expected to give its formal response to the review until the summer, but work and pensions minister Lord McKenzie last week gave his clearest hint yet that her proposal was winning favour within Whitehall.

“We are exploring how to pilot a fit for work service,” he told delegates at the launch of the CBI/AXA annual workplace absence survey.

McKenzie described the Black Review as “a clear and compelling case for action”.

The minister is conducting his own review of vocational rehabilitation, which is also expected to be published this summer.

A key element will be an evidence review on how effective rehabilitation measures actually are in helping people return to work, he said.

The CBI/AXA survey found that the gulf between sickness absence rates in the public and private sectors widened to record level in 2007. Average absence levels across the public sector stood at nine days last year – 55% higher than the 5.8-day average in the private sector.

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