Flexible working could help fill skills gaps by encouraging more people with health issues into employment

Organisations are missing out on great talent because they are failing to offer flexible working options that enable people to balance employment with their wellbeing. According to research by Astriid, 80% of people with long-term illnesses struggle to find jobs that are suitable for their health needs.

With the UK facing skills shortages in various sectors, employers need to embrace more flexible ways of working to attract more people with long-term health conditions and disabilities into the workplace.

“By offering more part-time roles and remote working options, employers would be able to tap into a massive invisible talent pool,” commented Victoria Clutton, who is on the management committee for Chronic Illness Inclusion.

 

Flexible and remote working make it easier to manage health conditions  

There are around 8.4 eight million working age disabled people in the UK, which accounts for 20% of the working age population. Yet only 52% of them are in employment compared with 81% of non-disabled people.

Nearly 60% of people that participated in the Astriid survey said flexible hours would enable them to accommodate their condition while working. The ability to work remotely and from home some or all the time was also cited by around 50% of respondents as an important factor.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how different ways of working can be beneficial for both the employee and employer,” commented Katie Sawyer, Lead Researcher with Astriid. “Organisations need to adapt their employment policies and recruitment practices to ensure flexible working arrangements are prioritised and advertised.”

 

Maximise talent retention with workplace adjustments

Attracting people with long-term health conditions and disabilities is just the first step; employers also need to think about how they retain this much-needed talent. “Even a small change to working conditions can make a big difference to someone with a long-term illness,” said Katie, who has several chronic illnesses. “For example, a previous employer arranged a quiet space for me to take a short nap at lunchtime, which meant I had the energy to work the rest of the day.”

Many organisations, however, are failing to make such simple adjustments, which can help to boost both the wellbeing and productivity of their employees. A quarter of people with long-term health conditions said their needs were not taken seriously by their manager. As a result, nearly a third of people do not request adjustments as they are worried about being treated differently in the workplace.

Making reasonable adjustments will not only help an organisation comply with employment legislation but also maximise talent retention. A survey by the Business Disability Forum discovered that adjustments helped 80% of people stay in their jobs and be more productive.

“By adjusting working conditions to suit individual needs, organisations will be able to build more satisfied and loyal teams. They will also be able to retain and attract skilled employees in an increasingly competitive labour market,” said Camilla Faith, HR Director for Grosvenor Estate, an international property business.

“Adjusting working conditions to suit individual needs requires time and resource, but it’s worth the effort,” said Camilla Faith, HR Director for Grosvenor Estate, an international property business. “Organisations who make the commitment will be able to build more satisfied and loyal teams. They will also be able to retain and attract more skilled employees in an increasingly competitive labour market.”

 

 

Helen GuyattThis article was written by Helen Guyatt, a journalist, and storyteller. She has been writing about business and IT trends for more than 20 years for a range of publications and corporate clients. Helen often trades her keyboard for a baking bowl and enjoys making (and eating) copious amounts of cake. She is passionate about highlighting social and sustainability issues to help make the world a better place to live in.

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