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Departmental Staffing

Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements are made within the Department and its agencies for maintaining in its employment those (a) over 50 years and (b) with a disability in circumstances of (i) a period of sickness absence and (ii) local staff restructuring. (86040)

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not discriminate on grounds of age. From October 2006 staff below Senior Civil Service grades will no longer have a mandatory retirement age in DWP. This means that once they have reached the minimum pension age of 60, staff themselves decide when to retire.

Where staff incur a period of sickness absence the Department provides extensive support to all staff through its Occupational Health Service contract, Employee Assistance Programme and generous sick leave provision if an employee is sick or has an incapacity.

The Department considers reasonable workplace adjustments in all cases where the Disability Discrimination Act could apply. These ensure the employee is not placed at a disadvantage in comparison to other employees. The Department takes seriously its responsibilities for managing attendance and has developed a supportive policy and procedures for managing sickness absences. The policy was commended by the National Audit Office (NAO) as meeting best practice.

Disabled people are included in all restructuring plans in the same way as other employees. They are guaranteed interviews in selection exercises if they meet the minimum criteria for the post. All applicants are offered reasonable adjustments at all stages of the selection exercise. When a disabled person is successful at the selection exercise our Human Resources teams work closely with occupational health to ensure that any adjustments needed, to either the workplace environment or the post, are put in place quickly to enable the person to commence work without delay. Workplace adjustments are given priority to facilitate moves. Should volunteers be called for to move jobs, or compulsory moves required, the same adjustments are made for any disabled people included in these moves.