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The cover of the EY / UEA Employer Insight Report on Supporting People with disabling long-term health conditions to sustain work

New evidence on supporting people with disabling long-term health conditions to sustain work

Inclusive cultures can help employees feel safe to discuss disabling, long-term health conditions at work; this can facilitate access to the support needed to stay, and be successful, at work.

Five key drivers can enable effective support and remove systemic barriers for individuals with disabling health conditions at work:

1.      Inclusive culture including Leadership and awareness; Respect; Enabling systems; Data and reporting

2.      Employee network providing support and advocacy

3.      Educated, empowered and supported managers

4.      Individualised and tailored adjustments, focused on strengths

5.      Autonomy to work flexibly

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 7.5 million working-age people with a disabling long-term health condition in the UK, and this number was set to rise.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.3m people in the UK are now living with Long Covid including 342,000 whose ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot”.

Indeed, the number of working-age adults who are out of the labour market because of long-term sickness has been rising since 2019, from around 2 million people in spring 2019, to about 2.5 million in summer 2022. 

Health and ill-health is a universal feature of being human, and evidence suggests that work can be good for health as well as social inclusion. However, individuals with a disabling long-term health condition are too often unable to find or sustain employment. The employment rate for disabled people of working age is only 51.3%, compared to 81.6% for those with a non-disabling health condition and 81.2% for those with no health condition. 33% of employees with a long-term health condition have not discussed it with their employer. 

Yet providing effective workplace support to individuals with health conditions can bring a range of benefits including employee health, wellbeing, engagement, and performance, and organisational retention, engagement, representation, and reputation. There’s also value to the wider economy — some 131 million days are lost each year to sickness absence in the UK, and the combined annual cost to the economy from worklessness and sickness absence is approximately £100 billion. 

This new report from EY and UEA, based on research by Helen Musgrove, explores what employers can do to support individuals with a disabling long-term health condition to stay in work.  We hope the insights from this research provide helpful, practical advice for senior leaders, HR professionals and line managers, especially in large organisations, and that it will also inspire conversation and further research. 

The report can be read/ downloaded below:

Helen Musgrove conducted this research as part of her postgraduate studies in Organisational Psychology at the University of East Anglia. She is currently the Director of Psychological Consulting at a neurodiversity consultancy, following a twenty-year career as a leader in the Civil Service, focused on addressing some of the UK’s biggest social policy challenges. She is passionate about inclusion of people with disabling long-term health conditions, having spent nearly a decade as the senior champion for mental health at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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