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Stephen  Bevan

Access to Work limiting employers’ support to individuals with fluctuating health conditions

Authors: Stephen Bevan

19 December 2014

Commenting on the Work & Pensions Committee’s report on Access to Work, Professor Stephen Bevan, head of the Health at Work Policy Unit within Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, said:

"We welcome the focus of today’s report on the take-up of Access to Work amongst individuals with a mental health condition. Currently, there isn’t enough support for employers to keep individuals with fluctuating mental health conditions at work. The Government’s CMO, Sally Davies, has said mental health is the lead cause of sickness absence, accounting for 70 million sick days in 2013 - yet only 4% of individuals using Access to Work have a mental health condition. We also welcome today’s suggestion that the number of employment support options for people with mental health issues is expanded to match those offered for other disabilities, including more options for individuals with more severe problems.

"Our ongoing research into long-term fluctuating health conditions finds that limited knowledge and take up of Access to Work is preventing employers’ ability to effectively support individuals with a fluctuating health condition to remain in work. With around 40% of the working age population predicted to have a chronic or fluctuating health condition by 2030, the findings from our upcoming report will recommend what more could be done to support businesses to manage this effectively whilst still meeting their business targets.

“We believe there is a gap in the support offered through Access to Work for small businesses and the self-employed. We recognise today’s suggestion to clarify and amend guidance on supporting the self-employed as a step in the right direction. However, we support calls that Access to Work should be made available to fund temporary cover for small businesses who employ individuals with fluctuating conditions. This would prevent a loss in productivity and remove the disincentive for small employers to take on an individual with a fluctuating condition.”


 Notes to editors


  1. Professor Stephen Bevan, head of the Health at Work Policy Unit is available for interviews, blogs, briefings, analysis, and written comment.
  2. The Health at Work Policy Unit’s second paper on helping organisations to be resilient to fluctuating conditions in the workplace will be released on 22nd January 2015.
  3. The Health at Work Policy Unit is supported by a grant from Napp Pharmaceuticals Holdings Limited and Bupa.
  4. The Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.



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