There could be greater workplace inclusion of those with long-term health problems and disabilities if access to occupational health services was improved, an analysis of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics has shown.

Carried out by Legal & General, the study looked at the results of the recent Fit for Work Service pilot scheme, reports

The scheme offers a support service which assesses the needs of employees with health problems that inhibit their ability to work.

It can refer employees to specialist occupational health support services and provide advice and support for employers.

The pilot proved that the scheme could be successful in helping those with barriers to work such as long-term health problems find and maintain employment.

Figures show that over 95 per cent of those who sought advice from the scheme while still working were still in work at the end of the first year of the pilot, while 74 per cent of those who had been unable to work when they sought advice had returned to work.

But according to Legal & General, the scheme also demonstrates that a simple lack of access to occupational health services is preventing a large number of people from finding employment who could otherwise be working.

Its analysis showed that over half of people who were referred to occupational health support services under the scheme would not otherwise have accessed them.

Furthermore, over seven tenths of those who benefited from support services related to their job, such as ergonomic assessment, said they would not have otherwise had access to such services.

“These findings suggest that many people still are not getting access to occupational health services and other support services that can make a huge difference in keeping people in work,” said Diane Buckley, managing director of Legal & General Group Protection.

“The Fit for Work service pilots have clearly been successful at improving access to support services, and this is very welcome,” she continued.

“We hope that the Fit for Work Service will be expanded across the country, to help millions of people access the support they need to stay in work.”