Work Foundation urges employers to make absence policies more flexible

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Employers need to increase the flexibility of sickness absence policies, according to a report by Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation.

Two in five (40%) employees could suffer from a chronic or fluctuating condition by 2030. The paper argues that for those living with conditions where the symptoms fluctuate – such as asthma, depression or rheumatoid arthritis – the quality of support received varies too much.

Karen Steadman, senior researcher at The Work Foundation, said fluctuating health conditions are a threat to the resilience of UK businesses.

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

The report, Fluctuating Conditions, Fluctuating Support, recommends developing a best practice database of adjustments and supports for people with fluctuating conditions, and improving access to specialist occupational health support.

Chief executive of Disability Rights UK Liz Sayce said that when it comes to the rights of people with an impairment that changes week-to-week, or even hour-to-hour, their right to adjustments is often ignored.

“Many of our members tell us they want to work but need flexibility and tailored support to do so,” she said. “With that support they could avoid long-term unemployment. For others, pain or fatigue are ongoing and vary in intensity, so working in traditional employment settings would be difficult or impossible.”

She added: “I hope this report will lead to the debate and action that the issue deserves.”

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