Home News Rishi Sunak Vows to End “Sick Note Culture” To Prevent People From...

Rishi Sunak Vows to End “Sick Note Culture” To Prevent People From Using Benefits as a Lifestyle Choice

Rishi Sunak Vows to End
Photo Credits - Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Rishi Sunak has pledged to transform the disability benefits system by putting to an end the “sick note culture”. In a bid to realise this vision, the Prime Minister intends to revolutionise the assessment of individuals’ work capabilities. He advocates for a shift in societal perspective towards focusing on “what work you can do” rather than dwelling on limitations.

Read on to learn more about the Prime Minister’s comprehensive proposals as we explore his statements. Then, gain valuable perspectives on the implications of these changes as we present insights from professionals in the medical field.

If you enjoy reading this article, ensure you stay updated with our latest publications by subscribing to our newsletter. Our daily updates bring you the freshest news from the sector, ensuring you remain informed and engaged.

Benefits Becoming a “Lifestyle Choice” in “Sick Note Culture”

On 19 April, Rishi Sunak outlined reforms to enhance disability benefits, prioritising support for those in need. His speech highlighted a commitment to combat “sick note culture”, expressing concern over benefits becoming a lifestyle choice for an increasing number of people. 

As such, the Prime Minister discussed several possible changes, including the authority responsible for issuing sick notes. Under the proposals, GPs would lose the authority to issue sick leave, with “specialist work and health professionals” assuming responsibility.

READ: Presenteeism Meaning and How HR Can Combat 71% of Employees Working When Sick

He emphasised that these professionals would dedicate their time to conducting impartial evaluations of individuals’ work capabilities and offer tailored support where appropriate. This aligns with his strategy to ensure swift access to specialised support to ensure people return to work quickly.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister addressed measures to prevent system exploitation, which included strengthening the Work Capability Assessment. Consequently, individuals with less severe conditions would be required to engage in work. Additionally, those who have been out of work for over 12 months, following support from a work coach, may face complete benefit removal.

Medical Professionals Warn of Welfare Implications

Given the polarising nature of Rishi Sunak’s reforms, we sought insights from medical professionals. We gathered their opinions on the Prime Minister’s speech concerning the alleged “sick note culture” and how the changes could impact the public.

Jung Baccam, a family nurse practitioner at Atlas Ketamine with over a decade of medical experience, commended the proactive steps to reduce long-term sickness absences. According to her, they could improve people’s lives and workplace productivity.

She points out that while this is a good idea, there are a variety of illnesses to consider. “Some health problems – such as mental health disorders, chronic diseases and infectious illnesses – require adequate time off to recover and to avoid passing on the illness to others”, she says.

Dr Linda Khoshaba, a certified physician and founder of Natural Endocrinology Specialists, also expressed her appreciation for minimising “unnecessary absenteeism” but said that it requires thorough inspection. She adds, “It’s paramount to ensure that any measures implemented prioritize the health and welfare of employees.”

This seemed to be a recurring theme, with Dr. Sean Ormond, a certified anesthesiologist from Atlas Pain Specialists, agreeing that the plans could improve workplace efficiency provided there is balance. He further says, “While promoting productivity and minimizing absenteeism are important objectives, it’s crucial to balance these goals with a compassionate and inclusive approach to supporting individuals with chronic pain and other health conditions.”

Balancing Workplace Efficiency and Compassion

Ms Baccam warns that this strategy “cannot deal with the multiple layers of this problem”. She asserted that while these measures may minimise the “sick note culture”, they aren’t the most effective aspect of preventive workplace healthcare. To tackle the problem comprehensively, she emphasised the importance of “promoting healthy habits, encouraging mental health support, and looking at the root causes of [workplace] stressors”.

READ: Ageism at Work: Offering An Older Worker A Seat Could Lead to an Age Discrimination Claim

Dr Khoshaba, a specialist in endocrinology, also highlights the potential ramifications of working whilst sick. She explains “Overworking or working while unwell can exacerbate stress levels, leading to hormonal imbalances and potentially compromising immune function. Therefore, any strategies aimed at minimizing absenteeism should also take into account their impact on stress levels and overall health.”

Finally, Dr Sean Ormond cautioned against penalising those genuinely in need. He said, “A rigid approach to sick leave policies could place undue pressure on these individuals, potentially worsening their symptoms and affecting their overall well-being.”

Rishi sunak plans on removing sick note culture

As such, he pressed the importance of any reforms considering the diverse needs of the public. Examples of this might include offering flexible working arrangements or fostering a workplace culture that prioritises staff well-being. Ultimately, he believed that striking a balance between workplace efficiency, compassion, and inclusivity was paramount.

Reflecting on Rishi Sunak’s Reforms

From the medical experts we’ve spoken to, it’s clear that Rishi Sunak’s plans require much consideration. Despite the potential workplace productivity gains, attention must be drawn to the potential welfare impacts of those on disability benefits.

Failure to fully acknowledge the challenges those legitimately seeking support face could exacerbate their issues, causing further health declines. Therefore, to ensure this doesn’t occur, the “sick note culture” reforms must prioritise well-being alongside productivity.

Employers play a large part in workplace support and have legal duties to protect employee welfare. If you believe your employer isn’t complying with their duties, contact Redmans Solicitors now. They are employment law specialists and could advise on your possible next steps following a quick consultation.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter now. We post the latest updates in the employment law sector, and by doing so, you’ll ensure you never miss a future article.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here