Home / Top 3 employment law take-aways from the ‘Back to Work’ Budget
27th April 2023
The ‘Back to work Budget’ was recently published on the Government website following Jeremy Hunt’s delivery of the budget in Parliament on the 15th of March. Here are our 3 take away points for HR practitioners:
We have recently seen a massive shift in when, where, and how we work during the course of employment. The adoption of hybrid working and the ability of employers to offer fully-remote work to employees has certainly made working more accessible. In light of this, the Government have published their Health and Disability White Paper which sets out proposals for future legislation in relation to employees who are disabled or suffer from long-term or chronic health conditions.
The intention of the proposed legislation is to remove barriers to employment for employees with disabilities and health conditions and to provide confidence to move into work whilst reducing the burden of unnecessary assessments. The Government wants to prevent employees leaving work due to ill health or disabilities, enabling businesses to retain skilled and experienced staff who may otherwise leave employment.
A Universal Support programme is being introduced which will support disabled people and those with health conditions into obtaining work and retaining existing employment. Those who are eligible can choose to receive up to 12 months of provision. The Government has pledged to spend up to £4,000 per person, with up to 50,000 places a year on offer. It is hoped that the support provided by the programme will help those who are eligible to quickly obtain suitable work and to sustain that employment for a longer period.
For more information on the Government’s proposal, the full white paper can be accessed via this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transforming-support-the-health-and-disability-white-paper/transforming-support-the-health-and-disability-white-paper
The Government is set to expand their pilot scheme which will support small and medium-sized businesses with the cost of using Occupational Health services (“OH”). The support aims to boost the supply of OH services to employers, which will establish any conditions that employees may have. The idea behind this initiative is to assist employees and keep them in the workplace, therefore increasing retention rates.
The costs of carrying out an OH assessment ranges from £75 to £500. The Government intend to increase the investment through the tax system to support the scheme and subsequently make OH more accessible. As it stands, the availability of OH across the UK is smaller than other international comparators and according to the Department of Work and Pensions, only 51% of employees have access to OH services.
It is important to establish whether an employee has a medical condition. The use of OH is therefore highly beneficial to employers, as it not only increases rates of job retention within a company, but it also promotes the wellbeing and productivity of employees. Furthermore, it can also limit any disputes between the employer and the employee as steps can be followed to ensure that the employee has adjustments made that suit their needs and is supported at work.
It is vital that an employer is aware of their employee’s disabilities, as their health condition may impact the employee’s job performance and increase levels of sickness absence. An employer has a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to assist employees with a disability, failing which an employee may have grounds to take their employer to an Employment Tribunal. An OH assessment can identify what reasonable adjustments an employer should make and therefore minimise the risk of legal challenge and associated costs.
It was announced that 30 hours of free childcare will be offered to people in England with children aged nine months to three years. This will be rolled out in phases and the Government intends for it to be fully implemented by September 2025 to all eligible parents. Currently, parents who work for more than 16 hours a week and who earn less than £100,000 are entitled to 30 hours free childcare, but this is limited to children aged three to four. The Government will be introducing this scheme using a staggered approach: from April 2024 working parents of two-year-olds will be entitled to 15 hours of free childcare and it is expected that by September 2025, the entitlement will be extended to 30 hours of free childcare.
The intended benefit of this extension of funding is to shorten the period of parental leave taken by parents by providing an option for them to choose to return to work from when their child is nine months old until they leave school. Some parents may not currently be able to afford childcare for children aged one to two and will therefore stay at home. By extending free childcare, it is hoped that these parents will get back into work as the financial burden is reduced. The advantage of this to employers is that employees with children will have less barriers when it comes to working hours, therefore increasing levels of productivity, and in some cases it may keep parents in work altogether.
If you would like to discuss any of the above matters raised in the ‘Back to Work’ Budget, or require any assistance with instructing Occupational Health, please contact one of our Employment experts on 0161 832 3434.