Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

September 22, 2016

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Wellbeing: “Employers must do more to close health and disability employment gap”

Disabled people or those with a health condition are more than twice as likely to fall out of work in any given year compared with people who are not disabled or do not have health problems, reveals analysis from Citizens Advice.

Research published by the national charity finds they are also three times less likely to move into employment.

Of the 3.5 million people who are disabled or have a health condition who are out of work, 1.4 million want a job.

Citizens Advice is calling for improved support for disabled people and those with long term health conditions to stay in work or get a job. For the government to help people achieve job security it must ensure better support for those who are disabled or have a long term health condition to stay in work or get a job.

In particular, the welfare system and employers need to better recognise the needs of people with fluctuating conditions or conditions that may be hidden, such as arthritis or depression.

As the population ages and more people stay in work longer Citizens Advice says it is more important than ever that employers and government do more to address the challenges they face. One in 4 people aged 50-64 are disabled or have a health condition and 500,000 people in this group don’t have a job but want to work.

The  research from Citizens Advice also explores the shape and size of the health and disability employment gap. 80% of those who are not disabled and without a health condition are employed, compared with just 49% of people who are disabled or have a health condition.

But ‘Working with a health condition or disability’ reveals that even within the health and disability employment gap some people face more challenges than others:

  • Over half of people with a physical health condition or disability are in work (53%) compared with a third of people (36%) with mental health problems.
  • Fewer than 1 in 5 who have a health condition or are disabled and don’t have any qualifications in work, compared with over two thirds (68%) who have advanced qualifications such as a degree.
  • Employment rates for people who have a health condition or are disabled varies significantly by region, from 57% in the South West to 42% in Wales and the North East.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:“Closing the health and disability employment gap will take work from both employers and government.

“Disabled people and those with a health condition face a range of obstacles which need to be recognised and addressed to help them get and keep a job. Simple things like being flexible about medical appointments or adaptable working hours can make a huge difference. It is also vital that people can get timely support from the welfare system when they need it, such as through Personal Independence Payments.

“As many now work for longer in life, the number of people who need to balance the demands of work and managing a health condition or disability will continue to grow.  It is in the interests of employers and government to work together to offer a range of support so anyone who is disabled or has a health condition and wants to work can achieve job security.”

Responding to this research, Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said: “We’re pleased to see Citizens Advice highlighting just how much work has to be done in order to close the disability employment gap. A huge proportion of people with mental health problems struggle to work as a result. As such, it’s deeply concerning that the vast majority still don’t have access to proper back-to-work support. We have long been calling for more personalised, tailored support, that takes into account an individuals’ ambitions, skills, and helps them overcome the barriers they face in getting and staying in work.

“People tell us that the support from the Jobcentre is often inappropriate, and causes anxiety because it’s delivered under the threat of sanctions. Stopping someone’s benefits if they can’t make an appointment because of their mental health, for example, does not help that person into work. In fact, our research shows the opposite is true – that this added pressure makes them more unwell and less likely to get back into employment. The vast majority of people with mental health problems want to work. If the Government wants to close the gap, they need to take action to make sure that specialist support is available for everyone with a mental health problem.”


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