The formation of a government steering group on vocational rehabilitation has been branded "disappointing" by engineering employers.

EEF health, safety and environment advisor Steve Walter said the organisation had been expecting the announcement of a framework on rehabilitation, and that the formation of a steering committee was disappointing.

He added that the government risked losing the current impetus behind rehabilitation.

David Bingham, chief executive of rehabilitation provider IPRS, said the proposals didn't "go far enough quickly enough".

But Lord Hunt of the Wirral, senior partner at Beachcroft Wansboroughs, said the announcement was "an important step in the right direction". He described them as "very good, positive proposals".

Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) minister Jane Kennedy announced the formation of the steering group at the National Employment and Health Innovations Network meeting in Manchester.

She said the steering group would seek to "manage the delivery of the framework" on vocational rehabilitation.

Under the steering group, a research working group would be set up to identify and prioritise for further research on the subject and to identify "appropriate funding" for large scale projects, said Kennedy.

In addition, the steering group will oversee a standards and accreditation working group "to consider how best to increase standards and to consider the case for the accreditation of rehabilitation providers."

Speaking to Insurance Times, Kennedy said a best practice guide to the use of rehabilitation was at least two years away.

"I'm prepared to say, based on what I have seen, that rehabilitation is a good thing and should be encouraged and provided at the earliest opportunity.

"But in order for us to commit government to a particular course of action it will need significantly more evidence than we have at the moment."

Kennedy said the DWP was in the process of setting up pilot schemes to look at the use of rehabilitation in workplace personal injury claims.

Kennedy said the government needed information from about 1,000 claims for the pilots to be worthwhile. She said the department was looking at setting up pilots in 10 major workplaces, and was working with Norwich Union to run the pilot in smaller companies.

"We don't know how long it will take to reach 1,000 claims, but we predict that it will be a year to 18 months. The information then needs to be analysed. It will be at least two years from the start of the pilots until the best practice guide is available.

She added: "It is a long wait. But in the meantime there is nothing to stop people using rehab as a way of resolving disputes."

Kennedy said no appointments had yet been made to the steering group, but that it was expected to have its first meeting early in the new year.