Almost half of UK employees will have at least one chronic health condition that will affect their work productivity by 2030, according to Fit for Work UK.
Its report, Is the UK fit for work?: Confronting the challenge of UK workforce health, argued that the costs of ill health on the UK workforce will far exceed the current £100 billion estimate as long-term sickness absence, presenteeism and work disability rise over the next 20 years.
Fit for Work UK is a coalition of healthcare professionals, policymakers, employers and patient groups.
It has set out a five-point plan:
- A comprehensive cross-government strategy and programme for health and work.
- Clear national leadership with the appointment of a national clinical director for health and work.
- Accessible information for people with long-term conditions to help them stay in work.
- Measures that capture health and return to work in NHS frameworks, and incentivise clinicians to regard return to work as a clinical outcome of care.
- Effective incentives to reward healthcare providers that support people with long-term conditions to return to work.
Stephen Bevan (pictured), president of Fit for Work UK, said: “Over the next 20 years, an increasing proportion of the ageing UK workforce will retire later and develop chronic illnesses.
“The UK requires urgent action now to prevent this trend developing into a crisis of public health and impaired labour productivity.
“It is only by developing a cross-government strategy and improving the dissemination of the tools needed to empower people with long-term conditions, that this challenge can be met.”
Karen Middleton, member of the Fit for Work coalition and chief executive officer of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, added: “Government policy focuses on reducing welfare costs, but there are millions of people in work whose ill-health threatens their job security and productivity.
“Simple, early and joined-up action, such as commissioning self-referral physiotherapy services, to help workers to manage conditions, such as musculoskeletal disorders, can save money and improve the quality of working lives for millions.”