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The volume of people with physical and mental health needs has increased over the last few years. In addition to people with disabilities we have an increased number of people with long term health needs, long NHS waiting lists, ‘long covid’ and an increasing number of people, of all ages, with mental health needs.

Also, our working age population will expand as people need to work longer before retirement.

Recruitment – employers will need to broaden their recruitment methods to attract people into the workforce. This will need a review of employment opportunities to include greater flexibility for those with health needs. People with health needs or disabilities account for 10% of the Plymouth population (Plymouth report), compared to the England average of 8.3%.


The Plymouth report cites the following on mental health:


·       In 2017 (pre pandemic) there were over 26500 people estimated to be suffering from common mental health problems. This included depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder


Plymouth Report_2019.pdf mental health statistics

Retention – Investment in supporting people with health needs can reduce recruitment costs and help employers to retain skilled people. This may mean often minor interventions e.g. adjustments or flexibilities to help retain people.

What do we mean by health needs?

The subject is broad including people with disabilities, long-term health needs, mental health needs, and neurodiversity.  It can include people waiting for operations or medical assessments before treatment is prescribed.

Why is this important?

With the introduction of greater flexibility in the workplace more people, with disabilities and long-term health conditions can be an asset to any workforce. As our working age population expands, employers will need to be more aware of how to welcome and support more people with health needs.

Even before physical effects are felt, poor work/life balance impacts mental health dramatically. In 2021 Work Trends Report, workers from across the world told us that “work/life balance” and “pressures from work” were the second and third greatest sources of stress in their lives, respectively.

Employers also have statutory requirements:

Equality act 2010 - Equality Act 2010: guidance - GOV.UK (

Health and Safety at work act - Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 – legislation explained (

Both of these have clear guidance on maintaining a safe, health workplace and the rights for people with disabilities or health needs.

How will this benefit the employees?

A more inclusive workplace that offers practical support for people with health needs allows people to lead more fulfilling lives and provide for themselves and families. One of the best methods to improve people’s physical and mental health is for them to have suitable employment and the network that work provides.

Flexible and supportive employment allows people to retain employment whilst managing health conditions.

How will this benefit employers?

Often quite simple adjustments allow employers to broaden their talent pool and to cover a wider range of jobs with flexible working. Many people with health needs will still continue to be assets to employers with their different focus and skill sets.

Supporting people with long-term health conditions, or through treatment, can lead to better retention rates and a happier workforce.

"employers will need to broaden their recruitment methods to attract people into the workforce."

Where to start

Review your current workforce and identify where you have people with health or mental health needs and how you currently support them. 

Look at policies you have in place and identify gaps in your knowledge e.g., Access to work providers for physical or mental health support. 

Offer everyone a private meeting to discuss any reasonable adjustments that may help them in the workplace, remember not every disability or health need is visible.

Find occupational health support and the availability of schemes through organisations such as Plymouth and Devon Chamber and the FSB.

Effective actions

Be Curious 

Treat each person as an individual

Be Compassionate 

Allow time to have meaningful conversations with individuals, find out if they need any additional flexibility or support to allow for their health needs. Remember that not all health needs or disabilities are obvious.

Engender a positive work experience by working with managers and teams to offer training on how to support people. 

Be Consistent 

Value healthy habits that help people thrive. E.g., schedule a review without interruption to allow time to listen to people’s needs, allow headspace breaks throughout the day. 

Online meetings of 50 minutes rather than an hour can really help.

Be Flexible 

Working together to make reasonable adjustments. For example; An employee with epilepsy can sometimes struggle with drowsiness and lack of energy in the mornings. Employers allows a later start time to support employee. (Headspace 2022) 

Well-being: well-designed flexible working can help boost employee well-being by reducing the work life conflict they often face. 


Mental health training, workshops or appointing mental health 'champions' or ‘mental health first-aiders’ who staff can talk to.

Ensure managers and recruiters fully understand how to help or support people in the workplace.

This is practical, offering help to individuals but can also safe money on recruitment and retention.

Duty of Care 

Making sure the working environment is safe

Protecting staff from discrimination

Carrying out risk assessments

How to achieve changes

Increase knowledge of health and well-being in the workplace. Review workplace practices and policies to ensure they support people with health needs.

Useful Links

What Access to Work is - GOV.UK (

Employing disabled people and people with health conditions - GOV.UK (

Advisory services - Genius Within

Factsheets A - Z | CIPD

Disability Confident – Are you disability confident?

Livewell Southwest

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