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The government has announced consultations into some key topics that employers may want to feed into.
On 16 November, the government unveiled plans to initiate a consultation for the reform of the fit note system. This announcement is a significant component of the government's broader Back to Work plan.
While specific details of the proposed fit note system reforms are yet to be disclosed, the government outlines its vision to offer individuals dealing with health-related work barriers easy and swift access to specialised work and health support. Acknowledging the crucial role played by GP surgeries in supporting individuals with health-related employment challenges, the constraints on time and expertise that may hinder swift and effective discussions is obvious to all.
The initial phase will be trials in a select number of Integrated Care Boards. These trials aim to use a triage processes, provide clearer signposting, and offering robust support for individuals who have been in receipt of a fit note for an extended duration. The insights gleaned from these trials will then lay the foundation for a comprehensive consultation on the fit note process reforms, designed to seamlessly integrate it with accessible and prompt work and health support.
Covering strike action
One of the most flip flopped employment laws, the issue of whether employers can hire agency staff to cover striking workers is up for consultation again.
Traditionally employers have been prevented from hiring agency workers to cover strike action. A previous consultation about reversing this found that people were mostly against the notion, but the government introduced the ability anyway. Not long after, they had to backtrack following the High Court’s ruling that the statutory provision was unlawful.
Here we are again. On 16 November, the government launched a new consultation on repealing the prohibition on employers hiring agency workers to cover strikers.
The government describes this as a "permissive" measure: agencies would be permitted, but not required, to supply agency workers to cover strikes, and agency workers would be free to turn down any assignment offered to them. It would not prevent trade unions from calling strikes or affect the protections currently available to striking workers.