The equalities watchdog has written to the government to raise concerns about the potential impact on disabled people of proposed changes to the fit-for-work test.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said next week's deadline for a consultation on changes to the Work Capability Assessment should be extended to allow more time for responses.
Last month, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Strid told Parliament of the government's proposals to change the assessment – which is the test used to decide how much a disability or illness limits someone's ability to work.
The new proposals are part of a post-pandemic push to encourage more people with long-term conditions and disabilities into the workplace, following a £2bn investment announced by ministers earlier this year.
Mr Stride said disabled people could get more help to work from home under plans to reduce the numbers claiming sick pay, with proposals including those with health problems that kept them out of work “with the proper support and opportunities to move off benefits and into the labor market'.
But charities representing disabled people have already raised fears about the potential impact, saying the changes could force people into work when they are not well enough.
Now EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner has written directly to Mr Stride to raise the committee's concerns and say she would like to meet him to discuss them “as a matter of urgency”.
He said the organization had concerns that the consultation period – from September 5 to October 30 – “is insufficient to allow disabled people and their representative organizations to respond meaningfully”.
The chair added that the published consultation material “does not include any analysis of the potential impact of the proposed changes on disabled people or other protected groups”.
Baroness Faulkner said industry groups had raised concerns that the changes, “in particular the proposal to amend the ‘substantial risk' criteria, could put disabled people at increased risk of both financial and psychological harm, with potentially serious consequences to equality and human rights”. .
He said: “We encourage you to extend the consultation deadline and publish detailed analysis of the potential impacts of the proposals on disabled people and other protected groups to inform consultation responses.
“I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this further as a matter of urgency.”
The government has been contacted for comment.