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New Approach to Disabled Employees Could Lower Staff Turnover

New Approach to Disabled Employees Could Lower Staff Turnover

The Resolution Foundation has called for a radical new approach to disabled people who have had more than a year away from the workforce as research indicates that such employees are treated twice as harshly as their non-disabled counterparts. The foundation claims that an overhaul of current practice could mean fewer workers have to experience the stress of being out of work, and employers would see a reduction in their staff turnover.

Advocacy group Disability Rights UK says that a new approach is essential for employers, “if they are to retain and attract the best talent.”

The foundation’s research suggests that a disabled person’s chance of being able to re-enter the workforce is 6.5 times lower if they spend more than a year unemployed. Meanwhile, non-disabled people are only three times less likely to be able to find employment if they have been out of work for more than a year – so disabled people face a penalty twice as harsh for long-term unemployment.

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Call to learn from maternity policy

The foundation says that an approach which is designed to prevent disabled people from leaving the workforce in the first place is required if the government is to have any chance of hitting its targets for disability employment.

It calls for a 12-month ‘right to return’ period from the start of sickness absence to help stem the flow of disabled people leaving the jobs market. The authors of the study call on ministers to learn from the success of maternity policy by introducing a statutory ‘right to return’ period of one year from the start of sickness absence.

Contact between employer and employee, and notices of return to work, could operate in a similar fashion to maternity policy. Dismissal on grounds of sickness would not be permitted within the year unless an employee actively disengaged from support and rehabilitation. The foundation added that businesses could be offered a rebate on statutory sick pay costs if an employee returned to work from long-term sick leave within a year.

Disability Rights UK said the recommendation to keep jobs open for a year deserved “the fullest consideration”.

Preparing for the return to work of disabled staff

Employers have a general duty to avoid direct and indirect discrimination against disabled people and are obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to prevent disabled job applicants and employees being at a disadvantage.

A flexible and person-centred approach in supporting the return to work of a disabled colleague after a period of absence can help ensure that a return is successful and sustainable.

A clear channel of communication needs to be established so that employer and employee can plan the return together. Employers should listen attentively to a returning disabled worker’s concerns and not be afraid to ask questions to ensure the experience is understood and any anxieties are constructively explored.

An employer should, with the employee’s permission, involve any specialist healthcare professionals that are being consulted. An employer should also determine any extra disability employment support that may be available and ensure that occupational health issues are addressed.

A return-to-work plan is vital

A well-structured return-to-work plan is essential. Many employees find that a phased return helps them readjust to working life, and an employer should pay attention to hours and working pattern, and how duties can be phased back in. New ways of working should be considered, and an open and collaborative approach will give an employee confidence and enable decisions about what adjustments can be reasonably made. The Government’s Access to Work programme offers funding on a range of support, equipment and assistive technology.

Regular reviews of the return-to-work plan will allow the timely examination of any issues and the opportunity to address them early and make changes.

An employer should be sensitive to an employee’s right to privacy and discuss how they would best like to disclose their health situation to colleagues.

A wellness recovery plan can also be useful after an employee has successfully returned to the workplace, allowing the opportunity for further measures to support continued recovery and wellbeing. Such a plan may include information about potential stressors, coping strategies and details of any reasonable adjustments in place. It should be reviewed regularly.

Creating fair employment policies for disabled employees

Our Employment team provides advice on the employment aspects of all major business decisions. For advice on creating upto date and fair employment contracts and policies for all staff please contact our employment team on 01895 207892. Alternatively email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk or complete our online form.

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