WorkWell: The UK Government's new £64 million pilot to get people back to work sooner


The UK government has recently unveiled a promising pilot program, the WorkWell program, as part of a comprehensive welfare reform. This voluntary initiative is set to provide a ray of hope and a wealth of resources to individuals grappling with physical or mental health conditions, offering them a path back to the workforce.

The program and its £64 million investment will make return-to-work services available across 15 locations within England, including Manchester, Cornwall and Yorkshire, and will commence in October 2024. Businesses in the pilot areas are encouraged to utilise the program for team members requiring return-to-work services. Participants can access the scheme through their GP, employer, or self-referral to undergo assessment and receive personalised support and guidance on workplace adjustments to get them back into the workforce.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has claimed that the UK's disability welfare costs are "spiralling" and attributes this to the all-time high in fit notes issued by the NHS in recent years. In 2022, the number of fit notes hit a record high, with 10.4 million being issued by healthcare professionals.

WorkWell aims to assist businesses by reducing the rate of absenteeism and boosting productivity with a healthier workforce. However, criticism has surfaced over the pilot's limitations, with concerns that organisations may focus heavily on certain areas of support, such as physical fitness measures, over mental health support. The scheme's effectiveness may also be hindered by rapidly emerging changes to workplaces and working environments.

Employers are encouraged to stay open to all options for a team member's reintroduction to work. Flexibility, strong communication within the business, personalised wellbeing plans, and two-way feedback are key components for a successful reintegration.



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