Health and work: Government Draft Consultation
The government’s draft consultation on health and work must help older workers to stay in employment and to get back into work.
The government clearly recognises the need to support people who face barriers to work, with new measures set out in the draft consultation on health and work to help people with disabilities and long-term health conditions back into employment.
Any changes to current systems need to be soundly based on evidence and support people of all ages to be in fulfilling work if they can. Currently there is no support readily available for many people over the age of 50.
Health is a key factor
A health problem can affect people of any age but the data shows that, without proper support, an increasing number of people over the age of 50 will have a condition that limits their ability to work. Over half of people have already stopped working by the year before they reach State Pension age. The single biggest factor which pushes this age group out of a job and prevents a return to work is health:
- Of the 10.2 million people aged 50 to State Pension Age, one million are not working due to a sickness or disability;
- 44% of people aged between 50 and State Pension age have at least one long term health condition;
- The employment rate for people aged 50 to State Pension Age with no long-term health condition is 83%;
- For those with musculoskeletal conditions it is 54%;
- For people suffering from depression the employment rate drops to 43%;
- For other mental health conditions the figure is even lower at 18%.
Although older workers are no more likely to take sickness absence from work, when they do, they are likely to be absent for longer. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the government’s main income replacement benefit for people unable to work because of a health condition; 58% of people who are receiving ESA are aged 45 or older, and this increases to 64% for those who have been receiving ESA for 2 years or more.
It is important that these age groups get properly tailored help – both to help stay in work and to get back into work. We also welcome the draft consultation’s focus on the role of working carers.
With many of us wanting and needing to work for longer to achieve a good later life, the relationship between work, health and wellbeing has become increasingly important.
At the Centre for Ageing better we know that being in fulfilling work has many benefits for individuals – not just increased income – so more support for getting over 50s back into work will be welcome.
As part of our partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) we will be talking to people over the age of 50 in Greater Manchester who are not working or in low paid insecure jobs, and use their own lived experience to create new approaches. The most promising ideas will be tested and measured for impact.
We will share our learning on the most effective approaches as part of our contribution to wider change in policy and practice in this important area.