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UK Long-term Sickness Rates: Employers suggestions for the next government

By . June 24, 2024

As the UK grapples with high economic inactivity rates, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has brought to light a crucial issue: the necessity for greater childcare provision to boost workforce participation.

With the General Election next week, REC commissioned pollsters Savanta to ask employers what a government should pursue to reduce long-term sickness rates in the UK. In this survey, 55% of employers identified expanded childcare eligibility as a primary solution to reducing long-term sickness rates and economic inactivity.

This call to action is particularly timely, given the government’s previous focus on addressing the so-called ‘sick note culture’. Employers have clearly signalled that supporting working parents and carers is essential. By extending the 30-hour childcare entitlement to those in employment, training, or education, we could see a significant reduction in the number of job vacancies and an increase in economic productivity.

However, the solution is multi-faceted. Tackling NHS waiting lists and providing targeted occupational health support is nearly as crucial, with 54% and 53% of respondents endorsing these measures. Employers recognise that reducing waiting times and offering specialised help to the long-term sick are vital steps in enabling a return to work. As REC Deputy Chief Executive Kate Shoesmith emphasised, the complexity of the issue requires a comprehensive approach rather than a quick fix.

The emphasis on flexible working initiatives, supported by 52% of survey respondents, further highlights the need for diverse solutions. Many workers opt for temporary agency roles to manage various lifestyle needs, including health conditions. By promoting flexible work options, the next government can better accommodate these needs, thereby enhancing overall workforce participation and productivity.

The commitment to childcare provision seen in both Labour and Conservative manifestos is a promising start. However, action must be taken within the first 100 days of the new government to make a tangible impact.

Employers also advocate for better education and awareness around reasonable adjustments (43%) and making employee assistance programmes tax-free (36%). These measures would further support workers, particularly those managing health conditions or other personal challenges.

In conclusion, the path to reducing economic inactivity in the UK lies in a blend of expanded childcare, improved healthcare services, and flexible working conditions. The next government must take a holistic approach, prioritising these initiatives to unlock the full potential of the UK’s workforce and drive economic growth.

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