Strong Words and Scary Statistics: Severe Criticism of “Fit to Work” Policy

11th September 2015
House of Commons Politics

Some rather shocking numbers were reported in HR Grapevine recently about a government ruling that resulted in deaths from workers told they were “Fit to Work”.

Contentious Policy

On the face of it, encouraging people to return to work is a positive and we can see why it would be encouraged. However given the severity of some mental and physical illnesses, authorities must ensure people are indeed, fit to return to work when told they can. Campaigners are saying this has not been the case and people clearly not able to work, have been left in the lurch and without any support.

Unnecessary Deaths

According to the report, of the 2,380 who appealed the government’s decision that told them they could return to work, 1,340 died. You don’t need to be a numerical master to figure out that is a high percentage.

With regard to how these people died, we don’t know as exact figures have not been released, but the article talks of people taking their own lives and having not only mental difficulties, but suffering tragically through being forced to go hungry or be away from loved ones.

History of the Policy

Between December 2011 and February 2014 reports are that around 90 citizens died every month. This lead to heavy criticism of Conservative policies which have been defended with the argument that work is a help, not a hindrance when it comes to curing illness.

The argument is a sensitive one – and when dealing with the infinite complexities of human emotion, is it really fair to have an approach that says “work will make you better”?

On the contrary, the high cost of benefits is well documented… but when it costs lives, which is the right port of call?

Personally, as a recruitment agency we love working and all things work-related! But being of sound mind – particularly with the stresses of modern life – is essential to a healthy individual and happy career. Companies are making efforts with well-being initiatives, and making progress too. But from a recruitment standpoint and through understanding the dangers of stress – forcing people back into work who feel they are not ready is a dangerous move.

At, we do not know the exact figures or causes of death thus are not qualified to report specifics from either point. We are reporting facts we read only and giving our own opinion based on what we’ve read.

"forcing people back into work who feel they are not ready is a dangerous move"