Work tests for sick people

The Telegraph (again) reports that the government is considering subjecting people to work tests when they are sick for short periods. The benefits system used to make a distinction between sickness for less than 28 weeks, which got Sickness Benefit or Statutory Sick Pay, and longer periods, which were covered by Invalidity and then Incapacity Benefit. That distinction has gradually disappeared, and now everyone moves directly on to Employment and Support Allowance after SSP. But that also means that many people on ESA have relatively short periods of sickness. People sick for three months are now tested for their capacity to work. The government is now concerned about those who are on benefit for longer periods – and the way to get them is to intervene earlier. That means that they are proposing to examine those who are sick for short periods.

The problem with examining everyone who is sick is, of course, that it is going to generate a huge amount of administrative interference. Half of those people can be expected to return to work after sickness regardless; the other half are mainly those who it is “not reasonable” to expect to work. All of them are liable to be subject to work tests.

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