Health is everyone’s business
Christian Meredith reports on government proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss.
Last month the government published Health is everyone’s business – a public consultation relating to a wide range of measures which have the aim of reducing ill health-related job loss and provide views on how employers can support employees with long-term sickness conditions and disabilities and help them prosper at work.
Change is needed
Despite current high employment rates in the UK, the disability employment gap remains large. Around 5 in 10 disabled people are in work, whereas approximately 8 in 10 non-disabled people are in work. Statistics show that disabled people are 10 times more likely to leave work following long-term sickness absence than non-disabled people. The government believes significant new action is required to change this pattern.
The government is committed to reducing the number of disabled and long-term sick employees falling out of work and is keen to create conditions to improve working conditions in this regard. The proposals aim to support and encourage early action for employees and improve their access to quality, cost-effective occupational health.
There are significant benefits to keeping people in work for employers, individuals and the government alike. Employers who invest in employee health and wellbeing can reduce the cost of sickness absence, retain talent, improve workforce productivity and enhance business reputation. Employment will have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing – while unemployment can have the opposite effect. The government and society will also feel the benefit as enabling people to work is good for the economy and reduces the cost of out of work benefits. The burden on the NHS is also likely to be lessened.
The government will seek the views of the public on proposals which aim to reduce ill health-related job loss on areas which include:
- Making changes to the law to encourage employers to support employees with health issues affecting work, and to act early during a period of sickness absence;
- Reforming statutory sick pay so that it is better enforced, more flexible and covers the lowest paid employees;
- Improving occupational health support by considering ways to reduce costs, increase market capacity and improve the value and quality of services, especially for small employers and self-employed people;
- Improving employers’ and self-employed people’s access to good advice and support, ensuring that all employers understand and are able to act on their responsibilities to their employees.
The consultation closes on 7 October 2019 and we will keep you updated with any substantial developments.