Walking the incapacity benefit tightrope

I’m all for stopping people malingering – why should people who work hard to pay their bills support people who are able to work, but choose not to and expect to be paid for doing nothing? The latest government drive to get people back to work through reviewing sick leave and incapacity benefits is, in principle, a good thing, but there are pitfalls.

If doctors are pushed not to sign people off unless it’s essential, there is a danger that people who shouldn’t be at work will become a liability in the workplace for a variety of reasons. People who are forced back too early after an illness or injury are a danger to themselves and others.

If people are forced into work, they don’t want to be there and come with the wrong attitude. They’re likely to ‘infect’ other staff with their negative approach and don’t care about the business or the people in it. Are they really the people any employer wants?

Then there’s the issue of the new Equality Act consolidating previous disability and discrimination acts. 100+ pieces of legislation have been repealed, some partially repealed, some revoked, and some partially revoked, so employers will have to through learning curve to establish what the new laws actually are now.

Now that pre-employment health checks have been banned on the grounds that they could be discriminatory employers are in a no win situation. If they take on someone with pre-condition that doesn’t allow them to do the job, the can end up with someone suffering injury on the job, and then suing the employer. Long term sickness absence can also result, leaving the employer in a situation where they are paying an employee who is unable to do the job for which they were employed.

At the same time as this drive to get people into employment, it’s worth taking a look at the employment statistics. Unemployment – for those who are actively looking for work – isn’t exactly at its lowest ebb. With older people working longer and more people being sent back to work there’s a danger that jobs will become scarce.

All these actions need to have a serious set of parameters or a lack of joined up thinking will be to the detriment of all.