Jersey's benefits laws updated to support those returning to work after sickness

Jersey's benefits laws will change to make it easier for people with long-term illnesses to return to work gradually.

It's after States members voted to update the island's Incapacity Benefits System Law.

People out of employment due to sickness will now have the option of a phased return to work, while still receiving some allowances.

Previously, islanders could not do any work-related activity when receiving allowances during a period of illness - including voluntary work or partial returns to their job as agreed by their employer.

These changes will bring Jersey in line with other areas, such as Guernsey and the UK, who have had this flexibility in place for several years.

For those who will benefit from the law change, it's going to benefit them "massively."

Martin O'Neill has been in chronic pain for nearly a decade, but as his spasms got worse he had to be signed off work.

This had a terrible impact on his wellbeing: "You lose who you are, what you were about, the sense of self has gone it's been stripped so you try to find who you are again - what you can become within the limitations of this - so work work is so important."

He's now more optimistic about the future as the change allows him more flexibility in the future.

Deputy Malcolm Ferey, the island's Assistant Minister for Social Security, says it's important to emphasise that the new policy is not about forcing people back into the workplace prematurely.

Deputy Ferey says: "It's not as if you get ill one day and then you're completely fit the next - so some people with illnesses like back ache, or depression, they need a phased return to work.

"And of course being out of the work place for a protracted period of time, in itself can exacerbate that health problem.

"So what we're allowing people to do under this scheme is go through a process where we can consult with employers and the individual to find a return to work programme that suits them and suits their finances."

The new law outlines that the minister is committed to a major overhaul of incapacity benefits.

Work planned for this year includes a new service to support workers and their employers while the worker is claiming short term incapacity allowance - a benefit paid if you cannot work due to illness or injury.

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