A recent analysis conducted by the Health Foundation has revealed a concerning trend in the UK workforce. The study found that an increasing number of workers are facing health issues that are impacting their ability to perform at work. The analysis showed that 12% of employed individuals, amounting to 3.7 million people, have a “work-limiting” condition. This represents a significant increase from a decade ago when the figure stood at 8.5%. Young people in the workforce have experienced a particularly sharp rise in work-related health problems, with over 10% of individuals aged 16 to 34 citing poor health as a significant issue.
Shaney Wright, a 33-year-old health and safety specialist, is one of the individuals affected by work-limiting health issues. He has been struggling with long-Covid, which has forced him to step back from management duties and work part-time due to debilitating symptoms. Wright expressed his frustration, highlighting how his health has impacted his career aspirations. This personal account demonstrates the profound effect work-limiting conditions can have on individuals’ professional lives.
In response to these findings, the Health Foundation is establishing a commission of experts to delve deeper into the issue. The think tank emphasizes the need for increased support from both the government and employers to improve the health and well-being of workers. It is important to note that those with work-limiting conditions are more likely to be women and individuals residing in deprived areas, earning an average of 15% less than their counterparts without such conditions.
Dr. Jennifer Dixon, the Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, emphasizes the wide-ranging consequences of poor health on individuals, their families, and society as a whole. She highlights how poor health in the working-age population can negatively impact productivity, the economy, and place an avoidable burden on public services and employers. The reasons behind the rise in work-limiting conditions are not entirely clear, but factors such as improved reporting of mental health conditions, the growing number of individuals awaiting treatment, and the health impact of the ongoing pandemic may contribute.
While the Office for National Statistics recently discontinued the Labour Force Survey, the Health Foundation maintains that the data used in its analysis remains accurate. In response to the findings, the Department of Work and Pensions has highlighted the £2.5bn Back to Work plan, which aims to assist individuals with health problems in finding and retaining employment. The plan promises a significant expansion of employment and health support for those in need.