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The Fit For Work Bill: What it really could mean for people with disabilities in Ireland

A new programme contained in the Programme for Government proposes new incentives for people with a disability to stay or return to work. Given that we work with people with disabilities right across Ireland we decided to find out more about this programme.

 

What is the Fit for Work programme?

The programme for government contains a provision for a “Fit for Work programme to support more people to get back to work if they have an illness or disability.”

The programme falls under the responsibility of the Minister of State with responsibilities for disability, Finian McGrath T.D.

Arthritis Ireland is leading the development of the Fit for Work programme in Ireland.

“Fit for Work is a unique initiative that aims to better align the work and health agendas in Ireland, bringing together for the first time key stakeholders from both the work and health arenas to drive important policy changes, armed with a solid evidence base.”

Watch

Highlights of a half day conference on Fit to Work that took place in Dublin in 2013

 

 

Why is the programme being spear-headed by Athritis Ireland?

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the leading cause of temporary work disability among Ireland’s working age population. The social costs of MSDs are enormous, often over-shadowing those of other chronic conditions. In Ireland, 14 million days are lost each year due to absence and ill health in the workforce, with half of those attributable to MSDs. This costs Ireland E750m each year and 7 million days in absenteeism.

 

A guide for employees

Whether you are newly diagnosed with arthritis,back pain or another musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), or have been living with the condition for many years, managing work can sometimes be challenging. This guide provides you with up-to-date and accurate information and advice to make sure you can find the help you need to stay in your job. If you are worried or concerned following a recent diagnosis of an MSD, you can find more information about what kind of support you are entitled to. This guide also discusses the options of re-training or moving to different types of jobs within an organisation.

Download the guide here

 

A guide for employers

Are you interested in the Fit for Work programme? Download the information leaflet here

What’s been the reaction to it?

Senator John Dolan, who is the Disability Federation of Ireland chief executive, said there was fears that a Fit for Work scheme, modelled on the British example, will be target driven and force people to work who are not fit to do so.

 

“There are worrying concerns and criticisms of the UK Fit for Work scheme related to the assessment process, unreasonable target-based cultures, resources, time and expertise available to the assessment process and subjectiveness.”

 

Minister of State with Responsibility for Disability Finian McGrath says the programme is based on an EU model.

 

“Any such proposals will be in line with the wealth of evidence which shows that generally employment is good for one’s mental and physical health and wellbeing and, conversely, that unemployment is damaging.”

It's about choice

Being able to work and being afforded the right and the opportunity to work are two separate situations. However, we welcome any initiatives that support people with a disability who choose to work.