'In section 17 of the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982 (provision of information: general) —the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (2),
"(2A) The Secretary of State may by regulations direct
(a) that medical information required under subsection (2) above shall, in such cases as may be prescribed, be provided in a prescribed form; (b) that an employee shall not be required under subsection (2) above to provide medical information in respect of such days as may be prescribed in a period of incapacity for work.". '.—[Mr. Newton.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 22.
The purpose of this clause is to introduce a new subsection into section 17 of the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982 so that rules can be made about medical evidence for statutory sick pay purposes.To he entitled to statutory sick pay an employee has to be incapable of doing work which he can be reasonably expected to do under his contract of service by reason of illness or disablement. This requirement is similar in many respects to the incapacity condition which applies to state benefits such as invalidity benefit and severe disablement allowance. To establish entitlement to these state benefits the sick person is required by regulations made under the Social Security Act 1975 to produce medical evidence of incapacity for work. A standard form of doctor's statement is specified by regulations for use by general medical practitioners and rules about its completion are set down. There are at present no parallel provisions applying to statutory sick pay. An employer is required to decide whether an employee is entitled to receive statutory sick pay and can ask him to provide any reasonable evidence in support of that entitlement. The nature of that evidence is not specified. The employer can decide what evidence he will accept. This is only proper in relation to a scheme which employers have the prime responsibility for administering. In practice, many employers ask an employee who is ill and away from work for any length of time to provide medical evidence. The Department supplies doctors with a standard form of statement. known in the trade as form Med 3, to issue free of charge for social security and statutory sick pay purposes. The clause is intended to enable the form's use for statutory sick pay purposes to be based on prescribed enforceable rules instead of the informal administrative arrangements that have existed until now. We intend that the regulations to be made under the powers being sought in the clause will be similar to the regulations about medical evidence for social security benefit purposes. We have consulted the British Medical Association about our proposal and we have its concurrence. Amendment No. 22 is simply a technical amendment providing that this provision and the statutory sick pay entitlement provisions will come into force together on 6 April 1986.
In the light of the extension of statutory sick pay, about which, as the Minister knows, we have expressed some reservations, it seems logical that, instead of employers just deciding ad lib what evidence they require, there should be some standard procedure and forms. In that sense, we are prepared to accept this clause.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.