Purpose – This paper aims to examine the impact of organisational change on public sector employees utilising the implementation of the UK Government's “Back to work” programme (BTW) as a case study example. The paper seeks to explore the employee response to the changes they experience as a result of this new initiative. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative approach was adopted for this study, employing in-depth interviews across the UK. The interview strategy sought to focus on the individual experiences and perceptions of those involved in the operation of the programme. Findings – The findings highlight how the interviewees face organisational change as part of their everyday life, with the pace of change increasing and becoming more radical. Many of these organisational changes are related to the introduction of new initiatives that require amendments to existing working practices. It was found that a lack of permanency and constant switching of initiatives, imposed by central government, could result in cynical attitudes towards a new initiative as interviewees await the newer, bigger and brighter programme. Practical implications – The study indicates that when a new initiative is introduced this involves change which impacts on employees and there needs to be a management response to this challenge to ensure that initiatives are successful. Notably there needs to be a move from quick fix, early-win outcomes as new programmes take time and effort. Originality/value – The paper presents empirical evidence of the impact of change as a result of a new initiative involving public sector employees. It demonstrates how the political context driving new initiatives like the BTW programme affects employees on the “shopfloor” and emphasises the need for management to respond to this challenge.