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Government commits £6 million to disability support platform

The government has laid out plans to launch a £6.4 million online service designed to help employers better support disabled people and those with health conditions at work.

The Support with Employee Health and Disability service provides free advice on how to manage staff who may be in or out of work with a disability or long-term health condition, in the form of an online Q&A.

It also informs businesses of potential changes they could make to help such a worker return to, and stay in, work.

The service is targeted at smaller businesses that don't have in-house HR support, and is intended to help them to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

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The service is currently in the test stage of its development, with businesses and disability groups given the opportunity to give feedback to help improve the platform.

Angela Matthews, head of policy and research at the Business Disability Forum, said the initiative would be welcomed by small businesses across the country.

She told HR magazine: "There has been a long wait between the previous Fit for Work Service ending and this service commencing.

Smaller businesses often don’t have a dedicated HR function, let alone a D&I specialist, we are therefore pleased that the government is working on this much-awaited alternative to help small employers support their staff and keep them well.

"Our discussions with the team developing this service have focused on the need for a broader and wider ranging service than provided by Fit for Work. The service must be able to provide advice on a diverse range of workplace health issues and ‘life’ situations, including everything from becoming disabled, poor health or wellbeing as a result of grief or loss, and menopause-related situations."

ONS figures show the number of disabled people in employment has increased by 1.3 million since 2017.

Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said the service would continue to help small companies employ large numbers of disabled workers and those with health conditions.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “We’re very glad to see the launch of this online service, which is something we advocated for and fed into while it was being developed. Small firms already employ disabled people and those with a health condition at a higher rate than larger businesses, perhaps in part due to the flexibility many are able to offer.

“It is useful to have support with understanding and implementing best practice in managing sickness absence and health at work, and in finding out about schemes such as Access to Work. Supporting disabled people to thrive in the workplace will also help to boost the economy, and fill vacancies.”