Broader back to work policy needed

As reports suggest the Government is going to link support for those with long-term sickness with more pressure to look for jobs, the CIPD is calling for a broader package, including more occupational health support for SMEs and more emphasis on quality, flexible jobs.

Older man looking serious


As reports circulate that the Chancellor is expected to announce a package of support for people with a long-term sickness if they look for work, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development [CIPD] is calling for a broad back to work strategy that doesn’t just focus on the over 50s.

As part of his Budget package, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to reveal the findings of a major workforce review designed to ease the UK labour market by “nudging” hundreds of thousands of people back into work. The review is expected to include the introduction of new ‘conditionality’ requirements for an estimated 2.5m people classed as long-term sick. Those with long-term conditions such as mental health issues and stress are expected to be offered extra support to help them to get back to work but in return they will be required to look for a job if they want to continue claiming benefits. Hunt is also expected to announce funding for older workers to get annual health checks in order to identify health issues earlier and prevent people leaving the workforce.

In its comments on the Budget, the CIPD is calling for a broad strategy to boost labour market participation across all age groups, not just the over-50s, which it says the review has primarily focused on. Its research shows almost one million young people have been lost from the labour market over the last 30 years, for instance.

The analysis found that more 16–24-year-olds are not working, but would like to work, than those aged 50-64; fewer young people are taking up any kind of work while studying; an extra 913,000 people would be in the workforce today, if young people had the same employment rate as 30 years ago; and apprenticeship opportunities for young people have declined in recent years.

The CIPD recommends that a strategy to boost labour market participation should have three key elements: boosting skills and training for young people; supporting health and wellbeing by developing a preventative and targeted occupational health support and advice service for SMEs and reforming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), increasing the rate of pay and making it more flexible to support retention and phased returns to work; and promoting and supporting the creation of more flexible, good quality jobs through the government’s Flexible Working Taskforce, reinforced by a well-resourced communications campaign and reviewing and improving the quality of regional business support services to boost SMEs’ investment in technology, people management and development.

Jon Boys, senior labour market economist for the CIPD, said: “There are multiple challenges currently facing the UK labour market, including our ageing population, the impact of technology on jobs, and changes to immigration rules and patterns. These are only going to become more acute, so it’s critical that the government develops a clear strategy to boost labour market participation and reduce inactivity across all age groups. This will require changes to policy on skills, occupational health access and support and a renewed focus on creating more flexible, high-quality and productive jobs across the economy.

“As our analysis shows, it’s important that the current focus on addressing the decline of over-50s in employment doesn’t obscure the need and opportunity to get more young people into work. While the extension of higher education opportunities has had significant benefits, the evidence suggests there’s also a need for better vocational routes into employment to provide a viable alternative to the degree route.”

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