11 steps to improving health in the workplace

 

Steve Bridger outlines Aviva’s response to Improving Lives, the Government’s recent Green Paper

11 steps to improving health in the workplace
The workplace can help promote healthier lives. Image: Getty

I‘ve been waiting a long time for the ‘Improving Lives’ Green Paper recently released by the Government.

The Government’s objective is to halve the disability employment gap and it has recognised that the workplace is the perfect place to promote healthier lives. However, that recognition is against a backdrop of deteriorating health outcomes in the UK.

There is an increasing trend for the working age UK population to develop a disability. 83% of all people develop their disability in work and there are 400,000 more working age disabled people since 2013 alone. 48% of all disabled people are unemployed and those absent from work for six months or more have only a 20% chance of returning to work in the next five years.

Employers’ role in retention

This indicates how incredibly important it is for employers to retain people that develop a disability in their workforce – and the importance of early intervention to meet that objective.

We know how effective the early intervention and rehabilitation services provided under Group Income Protection are to retaining employees in employment. Early intervention is particularly successful in retention of those individuals with mental health issues – which is important, given that over half of all Employer Support Allowance claimants have a mental health illness as their primary condition.

That’s why I was so pleased to see the green paper launched. The workplace could help to remedy some of the health issues facing this country, but government intervention is required.

In our response to the consultation paper, we decided to make it clear exactly what we believe needs to be put in place to make the necessary improvements. Our 11 recommendations cover three specific areas:

Measures to promote the role of employers in disability diversity and retention

1. The creation of an employer index to highlight best practice in recruitment and retention and the promotion of workplace health and wellbeing strategies.

2. The creation of board champions to promote disability and mental health in the workplace.

3. Consider encouraging employers to publish their diversity and absence management statistics to help raise the bar.

4. Introduction of business champions to promote best practice in recruitment and retention to other businesses.

5. The introduction of an incentive for employers to take up Group Income Protection (IP), in the form of a reduction in the employer National Insurance Contributions (NIC) they pay.

6. An equivalent incentive for the self-employed to take up Individual IP, in the form of a reduction in the class 4 NIC they pay.

Measures to promote the role insurers play in retention

7. The creation of a “protection statement” to show the financial value of employer and state support in the event of sickness absence.

8. Link in with the FCA on the development of guidelines for rules of thumb that can be used to promote the benefits of protection to promote financial resilience, and with the DWP on the creation of a single financial guidance body.

9. The removal of all dis-incentives from the Universal Credit rules preventing people protecting themselves from sickness absence.

Measures to promote wider shift in societal attitudes

10. Review international experience to inform Government how Statutory Sick Pay can be reformed to support a phased return to work or prevent sickness absence.

11. Use behavioural economics to re-frame state benefits and the terms used to describe those who are ill, to support return to work rehabilitation.

 

That’s our cards on the table. Those are the 11 steps we believe are necessary to make big improvements in the way health and disability are handled in the workplace.

The fact that we are only at the green paper stage shows we have a long way to go. But as long as there is the will from government, employers, the insurance industry and other interested parties, we could start to make a real difference.

Steve Bridger is managing director of Aviva Group Protection

Saturday 19 August 2017
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