Talking numbers on health and work

The health of the working age population remains a significant and complex challenge. The Work Foundation are working with Public Health England to shine a light on the facts by taking a look at some of the numbers.

At least 1 in every 3 working age people (16-64) have a long-term health condition (LTC) which might in the future, or may already, affect their ability to work. The likelihood of having a LTC increases with age – 21% of people aged 25-44 have a LTC, while 57% of those aged 65-74. There are also social determinants –people in lower skilled work or lower socio-economic groups are more likely to experience a LTC, and outcomes vary greatly between regions and localities. They are also more likely to experience multiple LTCs – as is the case for around 1 in 7 of the working age population (16-64).

People with LTCs may find themselves excluded from the labour market – while the national employment rate is 74.5%, for those with LTCs it is 60%, and for those with ‘limiting LTCs’ [any condition which limits daily activities or work a person can do] it is just 46%. This variation in employment rate by condition is significant – for those with a mental health condition the employment rate is 40% yet for those with difficulty hearing it is 73%. As a consequence many find themselves (often unwillingly) out of work and reliant on social security. This is again a challenge that varies by condition – almost half of all ESA claimants have mental and behavioural disorders.

What is perhaps most alarming about these figures is that actually in most cases, with the right support and the right employer, people even with limiting LTCs are able to stay in work and continue to work productively. A 2014 employee survey showed that 1 in every 8 of current employees had a mental health condition, and 1 in 10 had a musculoskeletal condition (MSK). Over 4 out 10 employees reporting at least one LTC were in work despite feeling that their health affected their work. For employers, the challenge is often viewed in terms of sickness absence – 131 million days of sickness absence were recorded in 2014. However, with 1 in 3 employees not having disclosed their LTC to their employer (possibly for good reason given the prevalence of health, and particularly mental health related stigma), providing appropriate support to people to stay in work is a real challenge.

Through this series of infographics, we hope to shine a light on some of the numbers on health and work – to improve recognition of this challenge, and to enable more people to take the message out and make the case for action to improve employment outcomes for people with LTCs. We hope to help more people to manage their health at work, to stay and to progress and prosper in work, as well as helping those who find themselves not in employment, to enter a supportive, good quality job, that allows them to flourish. The numbers speak for themselves – this is a challenge for government, for the health system, for communities, for employers, and for individuals.

‘Health and Work in numbers’, is a series of freely available infographics, which draw together some of the key facts and fingers that inform this agenda. Developed by The Work Foundation with support from Public Health England, they focus on key topics, including: Mental health and work, MSK and work, the picture of employees, the challenge for employers – large and small, older and younger workers, unemployment and the welfare systems.

We publish these in advance of this year’s proposed Green paper, and as we move closer to devolution, we wanted to showcase some of the facts, the numbers, around key issues in the health and work agenda.

Through our infographics, developed with support from Public Health England, we illustrate the key facts around different aspects of health and work in the UK, to support individuals and organisations to better make the case for supporting and investing in this agenda. Our 12 infographics look at :

1. Spotlight on mental health
2. Cost of ill health
3. Health of the working age population
4. Health of UK employees
5. Spotlight on musculoskeletal conditions (MSK)
6. Managing health at work for employers
7. Spotlight on Small Medium Enterprises (SME)
8. Unemployment and economic inactivity
9. Welfare
10. The local picture
11. Supporting older workers with health problems
12. Young people and health at work

View individual infographics by clicking on the names above or view the complete pack.