New Government proposals aim to narrow the disability employment gap and reduce ill health-related job loss

This week the Government published Health is everyone’s business – a public consultation on a range of measures to reduce ill health-related job loss. It is seeking views on how employers can best support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to stay, and thrive, in work. It sets out proposals to encourage all employers to take positive action to support employees who are managing health conditions in work and to manage sickness absence more effectively.

The proposals are far-reaching and include:
• Amending the legal framework to encourage workplace modifications and early action to support individuals on sickness absence leave;
• Reforming Statutory Sick Pay so that it is better enforced, more flexible and covers the lowest paid and potentially, rewards effective action with a new rebate;
• Improving access to occupational health services with additional support for small employers including a potential subsidy;
• Government to provide best practice advice and support for employers on managing health and disability in the workplace.

A key role for people professionals
As the voice of a worldwide community of over 150,000 HR professionals working in the fields of people management and development, our members have the potential to play a pivotal role in helping to achieve a much wider and more sustainable integration of health and well-being and disability inclusive practices at work. Affecting the necessary cultural and practical change in organisations to achieve a real step change in narrowing the disability employment gap and significantly reducing ill health-related job loss starts with the core of our HR membership. However, our reach goes much further in terms of influencing wider management practice in organisations. Given that responsibility for supporting employees with a disability and/or health condition on a day-to-day basis is likely to be devolved to line managers in most organisations, this wider reach is essential.

A step change is needed in employer practice
Last year we surveyed HR professionals on the opportunities and challenges that their organisations experience in recruiting, managing and retaining people with a disability and/or health condition. The published CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2018 survey report found that over two-thirds of organisations have a framework in place to manage people with a disability or long-term health condition, but most experience challenges in managing people with these conditions.

Developing line manager knowledge and confidence and developing an understanding about making reasonable adjustments were by far the most common challenges reported. A workplace adjustment process that is well communicated to line managers and employees is fundamental to facilitating effective working arrangements for people with a disability or health condition, and yet less than a third said they had adopted this approach. Less than a quarter had raised awareness of disability-related issues in the workplace, an approach which, if practised more widely, could help to facilitate real progress in the inclusivity of the working environment in relation to disability and health issues.

Time to join the conversation
The CIPD believes that UK workplaces can play a vital role in improving people’s health and well-being and supporting people with a disability and we welcome the proposals set out in the consultation paper. We will be consulting with our members and experts on the proposals to ensure that the feedback we give to Government is evidence-based and that any new reforms achieve the desired aims.

This consultation builds on the Government’s previous Green Paper and consultation Work, health and disability: improving lives, to which the CIPD also submitted an evidence-based response. The Government is very keen to receive feedback on its proposals so that it can refine and improve them to ensure that they are as effective, and cost effective, as possible. We look forward to engaging with you on these important plans for reform.

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.