Stat of the day: Long-term sickness absence in the UK

By Angela Matthews

On Friday last week, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released statistics from the Labour Force Survey on long-term sickness absence in Great Britain and the UK between October 2010 and September 2013. Some key findings are as follows:

(Note: “Long-term” sickness absence is defined as being more than four weeks.)

General In Great Britain there were 960,000 sickness absences between October 2010 and September 2013.
Disability 52 per cent of long-term absentees had a disability. The data is not broken down by type of disability.
Number of health conditions Absentees who do not have a long-term health condition had the largest long-term absence percentage – 38 per cent. 34 per cent of absentees had two long-term health conditions, and 29 per cent had one long-term health condition.
Type of health conditions 33 per cent of long-term absentees were on long-term sickness absence due to musculoskeletal conditions; 20 per cent due to mental health conditions; and further 48 per cent had other conditions which are not specified (and this also includes the 2 per cent of absentees who did not indicate whether or not they had a disability or health condition).
Age The age groups with the largest amount of sickness absentees in the UK overall were 40-49 (25 per cent) and 50-64 (42 per cent). The age group with the lowest amount of absentees was 65 and over (3 per cent).
Region The north-west and south-east regions had the highest amount of long-term absentees – both 12 per cent. This amounts to 120,000 absences for each of these two regions.
Industry The highest number of long-term absentees in the UK work in public administration, education or health (41 per cent) and in distribution, hotels, or restaurants (17 per cent). The lowest number work in the energy and water sector (2 per cent).

The DWP do warn in this analysis that someone’s health condition may not necessarily be the cause of their absence – and this is important to remember. In addition, the way an organisation approaches managing absences and the quality of the adjustments procedure(s) that they have in place can (but not always) be crucial to whether an employee can be at work or not. Flexibility (such as, for example, considering adjusted hours, working from home, or adjusted duties) can also sometimes be a huge contributor to someone continuing to work.

You can find the data here (Excel spreadsheet) (Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/long-term-sickness-absence)

Stat of the month: Pre-employment health questionnaires

By Angela Matthews

A recent report published in the Occupational Health at Work journal showed research conducted on the use of pre-employment health questionnaires. Some of the findings suggest that the implementation of section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 – which says that it is unlawful to ask candidates about their disability or health before offering them a job (with some exceptions) – has had a significant impact. The research compares the differences in practices between 2006 and the present.

In 2006, 36 per cent of organisations were using pre-employment health questionnaires to ask extensive questions that make enquiries into, for example, candidates’ history of mental health, long-term conditions such as epilepsy and, for women, gynaecological issues. Only 8 per cent of organisations now continue to use these questionnaires. The research found that questionnaires now tend to be used as part of a conditional offer of employment rather than before an offer is made.

30 per cent of organisations now ask for a ‘declaration of health’ rather than asking questions in a ‘questionnaire’ format. The average number of questions in 2006 was 28, and this has now fallen to 15. It therefore appears that the Equality Act 2010 has helped to improve things.

There is, however, some not-so-good news. Two thirds of organisations ask questions about disability for monitoring purposes, but one in five organisations allow the recruiting panel to see this information. In addition to this, 93 per cent of organisations ask if adjustments are needed for an interview, but 61 per cent ask this on the application form.

If you are unsure whether or not your organisation’s practices are compliant with section 60 of the Equality Act 2010, please contact our Advice Service on 020 7403 3020 or advice@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk.

Stat of the day: Health questionnaires and recruitment

By Angela Matthews

Who’s up for some good news?

Today we’re on the use of health questionnaires during recruitment, and it looks like things have improved since the introduction of the Equality Act (which says that questions about disability and health should not be asked before offering a job to someone). This research has come via an At Work Partnership press release and has been published in a recent edition of the Occupational Health at Work journal.

  • In 2006, 36 per cent of organisations were using pre-employment health questionnaires. This figure has now fallen to 8 per cent. The research found that questionnaires now tend to be used as part of a conditional offer rather than before an offer of employment is made. In 2006, many organisations were asking extensive pre-employment questions about conditions such as epilepsy, mental health and – for women – gynaecological issues.
  • 30 per cent of organisations now ask for a ‘declaration of health’ rather than asking questions in a ‘questionnaire’ format. The average number of questions in 2006 was 28, and this has now fallen to 15.

It therefore appears that the Equality Act has helped to improve things. But our work is not yet done:

  • Two thirds of organisations ask questions about disability for monitoring purposes but, unfortunately, 1 in 5 are allowing the recruiting panel to see this information;
  • 93 per cent of organisations ask if adjustments are needed for an interview, but 61 per cent ask this on the application form.

The ‘good fight’ continues…