The government has produced a consultation paper, “Work, health and disability: improving lives”. The paper highlights the following striking statistics:
- 1.8 million employees on average have a long-term sickness absence of four weeks or more in a year;
- ill health among working-age people costs the economy £100 billion;
- sickness absence costs employers £9 billion a year;
- there has been an increase of over 400,000 in the number of working-age disabled people in the UK since 2013, taking the total to more than 7 million;
- 8 per cent of employers report they have recruited a person with a disability or long-term health condition over a year; and
- less then half (48 per cent) of disabled people are in employment, compared to 80 per cent of the non-disabled population.
Over 3.3 million disabled people are now in work; however, many disabled people find employers reluctant to give them a chance. Disabled people also struggle with the interplay between work and the benefits system, which is not tailored to helping them stay in work. The government paper signals a desire for change (although this change may not happen overnight). The paper seeks employers’ views on areas including:
- the key barriers preventing employers of all sizes and sectors recruiting and keeping the talent of disabled people and people with health conditions;
- information that it would be reasonable for employers to be aware of to address the health needs of their employees;
- reform of statutory sick pay to encourage a phased return to work;
- how to ensure that all healthcare professionals recognise the value of work and consider work during consultations with working-age patients; and
- the role of doctors in providing work and health information, making a judgement on fitness for work and providing sickness certification.
Views are sought from various respondents including both large and small employers, people with health conditions and disabled people, families, friends, teachers and carers. The consultation closes on 17 February 2017. Responses can be filed here.