The Government has announced new proposals that would see around two million low-paid workers receive statutory sick pay for the first time.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out new measures earlier this week, which will help transform how employers support staff with health conditions.
They have now launched a consultation period on the proposals.
Currently, employees must earn at least the equivalent of 14 hours on the minimum wage to qualify for sick pay, but the government is looking at whether to extend eligibility to those earning below this threshold and provide more support for those returning to work after sick leave.
New figures revealed that each year more than 100,000 people leave their job following a period of sickness absence which lasts at least four weeks, with 44 per cent of those who had been off sick for a year leaving employment altogether.
The new proposals are set to offer increased support to gig economy workers who are on a freelance or short-term contract, provided they met certain criteria, with over 1.1 million of them currently receiving no holiday or sick pay from their employers.
As part of the consultation, businesses and health providers will be asked for their views on how to remove the barriers in the current system, and the Government will consider whether changes to legal guidance will encourage employers to intervene early during a period of sickness absence.
It will also look at how to improve the capacity, value and quality of occupational health services and consider how to reduce the high costs, particularly for smaller employers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We need to remove the barriers that stop people with disabilities or health conditions from reaching their full potential – these steps will help us achieve that.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd gave a similar message, she said: “With 3 in 5 employers facing challenges when supporting employees to return to work, it’s time that we took a closer look at how businesses can retain staff.
“Good work is good for our mental and physical health, and by working closely with employers we can help prevent the loss of talent when people unnecessarily leave the workplace.”