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Learn to manage long-term conditions of your employees

Ksenia Zheltoukhova

15 May 2012

The Work Foundation’s Summit today (15 May) invited over 90 occupational health and HR specialists to exchange their experiences of managing long-term conditions in the workplace.

One in three people in the UK currently has a long-term condition, which means that a large proportion of the today’s workforce would benefit from flexible working arrangements and simple workplace adjustments to be able to stay in meaningful jobs and continue performing at their full capacity for longer.

The burden of long-term conditions is under close scrutiny of the UK Government. We heard from eminent speakers including Lord Freud, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Dame Carol Black, expert advisor to the Department of Health, emphasising the positive impact of work in prevention of chronic health problems. They’ve reiterated the government’s commitment to supporting people with chronic conditions in employment as long as they are able and willing to work.

At the same time, it is clear that for those with long-term conditions carrying on working is not always easy. Interactive sessions during the summit allowed the participants to learn about some real challenges that those living with multiple sclerosis, arthritis, depression, or cancer are facing every day.  In small groups the attendees discovered that many of the workplace needs of those with ill health are similar across a range of long-term conditions: For example, it was noted that too often interventions focus on the physical symptoms of chronic conditions, while anxiety and depression that are often associated with long-term illness are not  being addressed.

It is both employers’ responsibility and in their interest to provide their employees with such work that supports individuals’ physical and mental health, and many organisations are committed to reduce the impact of long-term conditions on their staff through clever wellbeing strategies. At the event Dr Margaret Samuel, Chief Medical Officer at EDF Energy, and Helen Chipchase, Disability and Carers Lead at BT (MS Employer of the Year), shared their tips on managing and preventing chronic conditions among employees. Not surprisingly, it emerged that line managers play a crucial role in having constructive conversations with those working with long-term conditions and their co-workers.

Everyone who attended left equipped with a digital ‘toolkit’ of materials to assist them in running awareness events on long-term conditions in their own organisations. We are hopeful to be reporting on the successful campaigns of our partners in the near future.


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