The invisible faces of hidden disabilities
Mick has Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Simple things like aftershaves and air fresheners can trigger an asthma attack so badly that he has been hospitalised many times. He is a skilled professional but the jobs he can do depend on who he will be working with and what products he will be working with. How would you approach managing Mick?
Our next example, we’re calling her Charlie, has a parent who suffers from fibromyalgia. Charlie is committed to working but finds that she spends all of her spare time looking after her parent. And how about Leanne? She has suffered with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since she was 12. Doctors never believed her and said a lack of exercise or poor diet were the root of her problems. After over 25 years of fighting she now has a doctor who agreed to send her for tests. It’s a relief but what happens for her next?
All of these, and any of these, could be members of your workforce. They could be valuable staff members with great ideas. They could be terrified of explaining their personal struggles. Often no-one believes them. How would your workplace planning respond to their needs?
Managing invisible illnesses
We already know that current services are not doing enough to keep people with long term conditions in employment, and the subsequent cost to the economy is significant. Mental health conditions alone are estimated to cost the economy between £70 and 100 billion. Mental illness was responsible for the loss of 70 million working days in 2007, and days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has risen by 24% since 2009.
Worklessness and sickness absence related to working age ill-health costs the UK over £100 billion each year says Public Health England. But it’s not about financial costs. It’s about the impact on people, and people’s lives. We believe that the current ways of working are not sustainable - and the figures on the table reinforce this. Employers and the government must urgently seek to address the impact that long term conditions have on the employment prospects of individuals and carers.
How would your policies respond to the needs of these employees?
- A responsible manager might consider:
- Flexible home working for Mick?
- Leave policies that allow Charlie to care for her family?
- One-to-one management support for Leanne as she comes to terms with a diagnosis for a long-term health condition?
Scrambling for an answer when an employee reports health concerns is just too late. Employers have both legal and professional obligations to meet the needs of the people that make their business work. Are you ready?
Talk to us now about using our expertise to grow and protect your business, and your workforce. We are thoughtful. We are knowledgeable. We are VERCIDA.