Employers urged to increase sick leave flexibility

Employers should make their sick leave policies more flexible, according to a report by The Work Foundation.

The study into employee health and wellbeing aims to identify areas for policy improvement and suggest solutions to current problems.

Four in 10 (40%) of employees in the UK could develop chronic or fluctuating health conditions such as asthma, depression or rheumatoid arthritis by 2030. Currently, the figure for over-50s is 42%.

Current policy is not doing enough to support employers and employees with health conditions in the workplace:

  • employees have limited access to specialist health support
  • workers with fluctuating health conditions still experience discrimination
  • flexible working policies are not being designed with fluctuating health conditions in mind
  • collaboration between employers and GPs is weak.

The Work Foundation has published a list of recommendations to prevent employees developing work-related health conditions:

  • increased flexibility of sick leave policies
  • greater access to workplace health support
  • more support for employers in managing health conditions.

Karen Steadman, researcher at The Work Foundation, said:

"Fluctuating health conditions are a very real threat to the sustainability of the UK workforce, and the resilience of UK businesses. It is our hope that government heeds this warning, and takes action to support employers in developing businesses that reflect the needs of the workforce, ensuring their productivity into the future.

"The introduction of statutory part-time sick pay and growing income protection would go a long way to supporting those with fluctuating conditions. However, it is essential that government also impacts upon workplace culture and practice to ensure that employers fulfil their obligations to help their employees."

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