Improving Lives: The Work Health & Disability Green Paper

Halloween was an interesting choice of date for the long awaited Government Green paper publication “Improving Lives” – the work Health and Disability Green paper. Green papers are intended to prompt consultation with key stakeholders on areas of forthcoming governmental policy, but they are rarely as openly frank about the need for fundamental overhaul of health, care and disability benefits systems to improve the employment of those with health issues.

The paper starkly highlights that those with disabilities are more likely to fall out of work and become chronically workless and the paper highlights the wealth of previous work documenting the high cost to the economy of poorly managed sickness absence and large numbers of claims for work related benefits. It is clear that the proportion of individuals assessed as being unable to return to work is significantly higher (50% last year compared with 10% forecasted) and this has massive cost for individuals, employers and society.

The paper raises the fact that after as little as four week’s sickness, 1 in 5 do not return to work – this costs employers in lost productivity, sick pay and management costs. A repeated theme in the Green Paper is lack of integration – poor communication between systems supporting employment, healthcare, social care and benefits programmes.

Improving the contact between employers and employees – enabling informed conversations about health needs and work is an important theme. Absence Manager plays a key part in this, supporting managers to have timely conversations.

Occupational health is also seen as an area deserving attention and improvement. The prospect of piloting availability of occupational health specialist expertise for the first time within mainstream primary or secondary healthcare is tabled and the paper flags the issue of communication between stakeholders supporting an employee to remain in or return to work.

The Green Paper begins a consultation process leading through to February 2017. It does show very clearly the many systemic issues that fail to provide well integrated support and care to help those with health conditions remain in work (or access in the first place!) and it seeks innovative solutions and technological approaches to help address these.

Our Empactis platform is already designed to address many of the issues in this paper – improving the employer’s ability to identify health needs and support management action, enable case management of complex employee problems, interface with Occupational Health and other support interventions and support the placement of those with health needs. Health Manager also is looking at opportunities to improve the prevention of ill health, another theme picked up in the Green Paper, and also to help provide the data and information that enables informed decisions.

Empactis works regularly with expert groups and stakeholders to understand what is needed to provide effective services to help our clients manage employee health. We look forward to contributing to the forthcoming consultation and welcome the Green Paper highlighting the need to integrate and improve systems to help employers reduce sickness and make the employment of those with disability easier.