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Fluctuating and flexible support – why we need adjustment leave

Scope wants to close the disability employment gap. Disabled people can work and want to work – more than nine in 10 do work or have done in the past. However, only 45% of disabled people are currently in work.

In our  2014 report A Million Futures: halving the disability employment gap, Scope recommended the introduction of a new form of leave – “adjustment leave” as one way  to help disabled people stay in work. So we are delighted that The Work Foundation are now also asking for this in their new report Fluctuating Conditions, Fluctuating Support: Improving organisational resilience to fluctuating conditions in the workforce.

Adjustment leave reflects the fact that many people who are disabled or who have long-term health conditions experience changes in their impairment or condition over time.

It’s a new form of absence which would allow  the person to take part-time leave on a temporary basis at the same level of pay as would be accrued during pre-existing sick leave. Unlike sick leave, the individual is still working, but on a modified basis. Unlike part-time working, this change is intended to be temporary only – it is intended to help an individual “adjust” to a change in their condition.

Let’s take Mary. Mary has a condition which affects her joints and mobility and has recently become a wheelchair user. Everyday tasks – such as using public transport, or doing her shopping – are now taking Mary much longer than they used to. She is also experiencing much more pain and fatigue. Additionally, Mary wants to try a new therapy.  At the moment, she can’t manage work on a full-time basis, but she doesn’t want to lose her income or her independence. Her employers are keen to keep her skills, experience and expertise.

This is where adjustment leave would come in. Mary continues working, but she does shorter hours every day for a few months. This helps her to adjust faster to the changes in her life, and prevents her needing to take a full-time sickness absence. She is also continuing to be productive for her company at the same time. Once Mary has adjusted, she goes back to her old way of working.

Many employers are already doing this on an ad-hoc basis. Making this an official form of absence –  recognised by government, by HR professionals and most importantly, by employers –  would prevent unnecessary sickness absence and help disabled people stay in work.

Retaining disabled people’s talent makes good business sense. It’s time we step up to the plate.

If you have any thoughts on the report you’d like share, or a personal experience of adjustment leave, we’d love to hear from you.