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18Dec

Businesses urged to embrace tech solution for workplace health

 

Businesses across the South West will soon have access to a free groundbreaking digital platform to provide them with advice and information on managing health and disability in the workplace.

Called Beacon, and led by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the innovative online resource uses digital tools such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to deliver tailored business advice.

It is specifically aimed at small and medium-sized businesses who may be unsure or even fearful of how to handle workplace health and disability, and how they can create a good place to work by taking positive steps to support their staff.

Beacon will be launched in the next few weeks and businesses can register here for instant access when it goes live.

A year in the making, Beacon’s digital platform has been developed, designed and built in Cornwall with the support of local businesses, and is a UK-first. It has been described as “brilliant” and “like nothing else available” when tested by employers.

In the UK 400,000 people leave work every year because of a disability or health condition, at an annual cost to the economy of around £100 billion. And research shows that just over half of people with disabilities have a job, compared to over 80% of people without disabilities.

LEP Chair Mark Duddridge said: “We need to close the disability employment gap by helping businesses attract and retain staff from a wider pool of talent, and we need to tackle the issue of workplace health as the workforce gets older. But businesses tell us they don’t know where to start and need help to build their confidence so they can take positive steps.

“Beacon does that by delivering tailored advice about managing health and disability issues in an accessible, informative and engaging way. We know that many businesses are just plain scared when it comes to these issues and that can hold them back, inhibit recruitment and lead to a loss of skills.

“Beacon acts as a guide and gives them the right advice and information when they need it. It’s about creating good places to work that are inclusive, supportive and look after their own.”

Beacon has been co-designed with local businesses in partnership with the University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, Department of Health and Department for Work & Pensions.

The £545,000 project is funded by the Government’s Employers, Health and Inclusive Employment Unit, with a view to it being rolled out nationally following the pilot project in Cornwall.

Beacon helps businesses navigate and manage health and disability issues, and provides them with the right national and local information and advice to support them to make decisions and connect with the right resources quickly, while complying with the very latest employment regulations.

Frances Brennan, diversity champion on the LEP Board, added: “Businesses are struggling to recruit so we need to make it easier for them to find the right people from a wider range of candidates, and to hold on to the people they have. That’s why inclusive growth is such an important part of our Local Industrial Strategy and is a major focus for the LEP. Beacon will help empower business to respond positively to this important agenda.”

One of the businesses that has helped shape Beacon is digital marketing agency Peaky Digital, with offices in Cornwall and Nottingham. Managing director Natalie Crouch said: “We’re very fortunate to have had an active involvement in the early stages of Beacon. Company culture is hugely important to us and we can really see the business benefits of having access to insightful resources and actionable information relevant to us.”

To receive an alert when Beacon goes live, please register your interest here.

Case Study

Leanne (Lee) McIntyre joined St Austell-based social housing provider Ocean Housing Group as a project officer a couple of years ago.

When Leanne applied for the job she noted on her application that she was living with hearing loss and Ocean Housing took steps to make her feel comfortable at interview and after she was hired.

She said: “When I came in everybody was facing me, they took me to a quiet, small meeting room and I felt fully supported - from the moment I walked in the door, to now.”

Nikki Forward, Head of Human Resources at Ocean Housing, added: “There’s a scarcity of certain skills and resources so it’s important for us to look at as wide a talent pool as possible. We’ve had a lot of experience managing and supporting people with physical, mental and medical issues. It might be providing emotional support, adjusting working hours, providing stand-up desks or screen adjustments, and they’ve often been quite simple things to do.

“A couple of years ago we recruited into one of our project officer roles and the candidate with the best match of skills and experience, Lee, had been living with hearing loss.

“We talked to Lee and asked what she needed and then we got the support of Access to Work who came and did an assessment. With the help of a small electronic device that Lee could use in meetings, there were very few other adjustments we had to make. As part of her induction we also ran some deaf awareness training because she felt it would help her settle into her team if they understood the condition more.”

Leanne added: “That was really useful for simple things like remembering to close windows when the traffic is noisy outside, keeping the meeting room doors closed, speaking facing me and not covering up their mouth. 

“Anybody else who’s got an additional need, don’t be defined by that need, go for your goals and fulfil your potential. You just need that right support and you will get that.”

Ocean Housing Group has been working with Beacon for the last 12 months. Nikki added: “It’s been really great helping to design and develop the product and the thought of having a digital tool that we can access where there is central information is really great for us as a business and we can’t wait to see it come to fruition.”

Work and health factfile:

  • In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there are almost 50,000 working age people whose day-to-day activities are limited by a long term illness or disability, which is over 15% of the working age population and above the national average.
  • 83% of people who have a disability acquire it while they are in work.
  • Statistics for April-June 2019 show that just 52.6% of people with disabilities are in employment, compared to 81.5% for people without disabilities.
  • Some 400,000 people leave the workforce after developing a disability or work limiting condition in the UK each year.
  • One in three of the working age population in England report having at least one long-term health condition.
  • Almost one in six people of working age have a diagnosable mental health condition.
  • Over half the people with a long term condition say their health is a barrier to the type or amount of work they can do.
  • By 2030, 40% of the working age population will have a long term health condition and the average age of the workforce will have risen from 39 in 2016 to 43.
  • People in the poorest communities have a 60% higher prevalence of long-term conditions than those in the richest.
  • The combined costs of sickness absence and lost productivity through health-related conditions is estimated to be over £100 billion annually. This is more than the annual NHS budget in the UK.

Source: gov.uk

Page last updated: 14:32, 18th December 2019
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