Crumbling employment laws and poor investment have contributed to swathes of people with ill health conditions dropping out of work each year, a government advisor has said.
Tabitha Jay, director of the joint work and health unit, which reports to the Work and Pensions and Health and Social Care government departments, said changes would be made to help reach government's target of one million more disabled workers in work by 2027.
“We have been thinking about the framework in which employers make decisions, how much to invest and how hard to try. Is the government nudging employers towards doing [the right] things? Probably not, because employment law and sick pay was designed at a very different time without an ageing workforce, and without so many long-term conditions.”
Speaking at the Health and Wellbeing at Work conference on 5 March, Jay said government is looking at ways to increase access to occupational therapy with just 51 per cent of employees in Great Britain currently having access to advice and support for health conditions.
She added that early intervention, providing paid time off work for illness or injury and adjustments for individuals were also three key actions for employers. “Empathy goes a long way, a small adjustment would be enough to make a big difference.”
Each year, 300,000 disabled people leave work due to health conditions. “The longer they stay off work the smaller their chances of return. We need to do much more to stop people falling out of work,” she concluded.
The government’s Fit for Work scheme, intended to help people who have been off work ill for four weeks or more get back into their workplace, was shut down in December 2017 after very low uptake. A consultation on new proposals is expected later in the year.
Government strategy on getting disabled people into work here
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