One in three bosses is completely unaware of the implications of the Welfare Reform Act, and of those who are, 46 per cent have done nothing yet to change their company strategy for wellness, absence or support provision, according to new employer research from GRiD.
The fact that the Welfare Reform Act has now received Royal Assent means vocational rehabilitation should be pushed up the agenda of employers, says Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD.
Moxham says the Act, which sets out a framework that will see virtually everyone on benefits set on a pathway back to work, should be seen in a broader context alongside NICE guidelines on long term sickness absence and incapacity for work and the reform of the sick note system.
She argues this all suggests far greater responsibility for employers to provide vocational rehabilitation and support to enable employees to stay in the workplace.
She adds that with the Government’s first National Strategy for Mental Health and Employment to set expectations of employers in improving wellbeing in the workplace and Fit for Work Service pilots to provide back-to-work support for people off sick from work, the trend looks set to continue.
The GRiD research was conducted in October 2009 by Lightspeed research among 500 UK companies with up to 1,000 employees.
Moxham says: “The group risk market is already extremely well placed to support welfare reform. Given that vocational rehabilitation is a primary feature of most group income protection (GIP) policies, an employer with a GIP policy is currently able to assess an employee’s level
of incapacity and to commence a return to work programme long before any assessment for State support is even due to commence.
“Additionally, GIP policies often carry additional free or discounted support services, such as absence management, employee assistance programmes, GP help-lines, online health assessments, second opinion services and occupational health options. An employer with a current generation GIP policy in place will be well-equipped to function in a post welfare reform world.