The government has published its latest white paper setting out proposals to improve the working prospects of disabled people and reform statutory sick pay, with the aim of getting one million more disabled people in work over the next 10 years.

The paper, Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability has been published alongside an announcement that the existing ‘Fit for Work’ scheme will be scaled back. Following low referral rates, new referrals to the scheme for an independent occupational health assessment end on 15 December 2017, with the assessment service ending entirely on 31 March 2018 (in England and Wales). The Fit for Work helpline and website will continue to offer general health and work advice and provide support on sickness absence.

The white paper sets out wide-ranging proposals for reform in order to break down employment barriers for disabled people and people with health conditions over the next 10 years.

Following a review of the existing fit note, the government proposes to extend certification powers to other health professionals alongside GPs. An expert working group will also be appointed to champion reform of current occupational health provision.

Reforms to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be set out in a separate consultation paper, to include proposals designed to allow greater flexibility in the payment of SSP (for example, to support phased returns to work). The consultation will take into account recommendations made by Matthew Taylor concerning eligibility for SSP. Revised and improved guidance on eligibility for SSP will also be published.

The white paper also endorses in full the recommendations made in the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health, published in October 2016 and reported in last month’s newsletter.