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TALiNT Talk - the value of work and its affect on mental health

The budget was all about the workforce – again!

Ken Brotherston, CEO at TALiNT Partners on how promoting the value of work can support the value of self.

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At first pass, last week’s budget wasn’t as obviously focused on the labour market as its predecessor. If you recall, last year’s budget had measures such as support for families with young children (code for ‘get more women into work’), and ‘returnerships’ for older workers, both of which are important steps to help  address the structural challenges facing the UK in improving labour accessibility and, hopefully, in time the wider challenges around productivity.

But as the dust settles on last week’s budget, it turns out that the biggest focus is not child benefit and non-dom tax breaks but moving towards abolishing national insurance and paying for it by reducing welfare payments specifically to those not in work who should be.

With long-term sickness now at an all time high and at a far higher level than other similar economies it is clear there is something fundamentally broken in the UK labour market – especially for younger workers.

And whoever is in government this time next year knows that this is a problem that urgently needs to be solved regardless of whether it funds a reduction in NI or not.

The importance of work to help alleviate the mental health challenges affecting younger workers is something I wrote about only last week.

One point that did strike me in the government’s comments was the way they will use the much-increased ability to work from home as a way to support (or demand?) workers with mobility or mental health problems take work that they might have not been able to do before.

All of this feels like an opportunity for recruiters and the TA community. The shortage of workers as a result of longer term demographic changes, increased pressure to reduce immigration and the number of people on long-term sickness may not be their fault but it is their problem!

So what can be done?

First of all, the move to ‘hiring for skills’ will only continue to grow. This isn’t as easy as it might sound as it can require almost a fundamental ‘re-wiring’ of an organisation’s approach to finding and keeping the people they need but there’s no doubt about the direction of travel.

Secondly, we know from many of the entries to our TIARA Talent Acquisition Awards that many employers have done amazing work on engaging diverse groups of candidates. Designing ways in which neuro-diverse candidates can be engaged effectively can surely be re-purposed to help candidates with mental health challenges.

And the third area I would suggest is for all of us in the talent ecosystem to actively promote the value of work. Whilst workplace stress is all too real, for the vast majority of people (especially those earlier in their careers) work provides structure and learning and camaraderie all of which are important to an individual’s self-worth. Too often we downplay the value of their job but if that can be done in conjunction with the right support for ongoing learning, it isn’t just a powerful way to boost your own organisation but society more widely.


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