The Government’s new ten-year work, health and disability strategy proposes solutions that are welcome, but the pace of change needs to accelerate

Business team communicating in creative office picture id641731706

The central focus of the paper is to improve progress on the government’s manifesto ambition to halve the disability employment gap as well as decreasing absence of workers with long-term health conditions.

Commenting on the Government’s strategy, Rachel Suff, Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the CIPD, states: “The Government’s strategy Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability has far-reaching proposals for supporting one million more people with a disability into work in 10 years as well improving employers’ support for people’s health.

Almost 1 in 3 people of working age have a long-term health condition and around 1 in 5 have a mental health condition. “We welcome the broad acceptance the recommendations made in the Stevenson/Farmer review and the Matthew Taylor Review of good work designed to improve not only how employers recruit, but progress the careers of, people with a disability or health condition. By encouraging greater transparency and better reporting of action taken as suggested, Government can help inspire wider change in employer practice.”

Over 3.3 million disabled people are in work, however, as many as 150,000 disabled people who are in work one quarter are out of work the next quarter. With limited access to services and a welfare system that does not provide enough support, employers need to assist their disabled workers to remain in work.

Nick Homer, Zurich’s Head of Market Management, Corporate Risk comments: “We fully support the Government’s aspirations to ensure that people with a disability or long-term health condition are supported in achieving their full employment potential. We’re also pleased that the Government recognises the positive role Group Income Protection (GIP) has to play in helping employers to support their employees, particularly through the rehabilitation services it delivers.”

“However, we are concerned that the Government believes that the main challenge to increase the take-up of GIP is one of product design, as it is a flexible product that can be tailored to meet the needs and budgets of SMEs through to multinational organisations. The challenges are much broader environmental issues.”

Among some of the aims of the report are to help employers take action to create a workforce that reflects society as a whole and where employers are equipped to take a long-term view on the skills and capability of their workforce, managing an ageing workforce and increased chronic conditions to keep people in work, rather than reacting only when they lose employees as well as change cultures and mind-sets across all of society: employers, health services, the welfare system and among individuals themselves, so that we focus on the strengths of disabled people and what they can do.

Suff concludes “Proposals such as reforming Statutory Sick Pay to facilitate flexible working and expanding fit note certification to other healthcare professionals will need further development work and legislative change. We welcome the fact that the Government is taking the time to research and demonstrate a sound evidence base on other proposals, such as determining what incentives could motivate employers to invest in people’s health.”

“However, we need a considerable step change in employment practice relating to the management of people with a disability and/or health condition if the Government’s aims are to be realised. Its Green Paper showed that just 8% of employers had recruited a person with a disability or long-term health condition over a year, a stark indication of the extent of the barriers that continue to hinder employer confidence in this area.”

“Despite the widely acknowledged business case for taking action, CIPD research also shows there remains a stubborn implementation gap for health and well-being initiatives, and disability confident practice, at work. As a Disability Confident Leader, we fully support the scheme’s work to encourage broader awareness of this agenda but more concrete activity and resources are needed now by Government, working with key stakeholders, to promote and join up existing services such as Fit for Work and Access to Work and build a high-profile campaign to inspire change.”