Plans to abolish the “sick note” in favour of the “well note” could force sick and injured people back to work before they are fit to return, warns Thompsons Solicitors, Britain’s most experienced trade union and personal injury law firm. 

The Government’s proposals, contained in a Department for Work and Pensions consultation on reforming the medical statement, would also fail to cut the cost of sick leave to industry or reduce compensation payments to employees made ill or injured by their employers, the firm believes.

Unless the new rules oblige employers to make changes to the working conditions of employees who were injured or became sick because of their work – such as by altering their duties or making changes to workstations – then people will either be unable to return to work, or will do so only to go off sick again.

Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons said: “We support reform of the system in principle. It is always better to find ways of helping people back to work after injury or illness than having them off sick. 

“However many people remain on sick leave because employers fail to make the necessary adjustments to enable them to work again. This voluntary approach is highly unlikely to change that. People often find themselves in a no man’s land: not wanting to stay off work, but unable to return. 

"Under the proposals employers might take someone back before they were ready, and even coerce them to do so and then dismiss them when they cannot cope. This is neither in the employee's or the employer's interest.

“The proposed system would do nothing to tackle the issue of long-term health and well-being.”

Tom Jones said the proposals appeared to link “well notes” with access to Employment and Support allowance. “This is fundamentally wrong. The government’s new work-health strategy must focus on the employer’s duty to help people back to work. As with rehabilitation, it cannot be used as a stick with which to beat the sick and injured. Hard working families who have lost income through no fault of their own must not be further punished.”

Read Thompsons Solicitors full response on Reforming the Medical Statement: consultation on draft regulations.