Government statistics have recently shown that following being told that they are fit to return to work, thousands have died within weeks.

Critics are suggesting that the Government’s Work Capability Assessment is causing suffering by sending people back to work that are clearly still unwell.

So what does this mean for employers?

Whilst the figures that have been published may deter organisations from employing individuals that have been classified as fit for work following long periods of absence, with good management, employers are able to tap into a highly specialised pool of people.

Managers are reporting that they are finding it increasingly more difficult to fill specialist positions; with this in mind, they should be encouraged to tap into the rich pool of individuals who are returning to work following treatment and/or long absences from work.  However, this should be managed effectively by carrying out the appropriate checks to ensure individuals are fit to undertake the role they are employed to do.

Although the Equality Act 2010 prohibits employers from asking pre-employment health questions before a job offer is made, employers are still able to make conditional offers and carry out the necessary checks to ensure an individual is fit to work.  If the checks reveal that an individual has a condition that may affect an individual’s ability to carry out the role for which they have been recruited, the employer will need to consider reasonable adjustments.  Only if there are no reasonable adjustments that can be made to enable the individual to carry out the role successfully can the job offer be withdrawn.  Withdrawing a job offer should be conducted with caution and be based on advice from Occupational Health.

The importance of carrying out checks on specific roles is highlighted following the Glasgow bin lorry crash in 2014, in which 6 people were killed and 15 were injured.  The driver, 58 year old Harry Clarke, had passed out at the wheel and, in fact, had a history of blackouts.

If Mr Clarke had declared all absences and the fact that he had blacked out in the past, it is highly unlikely that Mr Clarke would have been successful in securing his position as a driver.  This therefore reinforces the fact that a series of checks should be made, as well as references taken, prior to confirming a new member of staff in a role.

For assistance please contact Anita Wynne at Beststart HR on or Tel: 01438 747 747.