Vocational point of view - Post pandemic unemployment and economic recovery.

I was interested to read the recent article “Where have all the UK Workers gone” by Robert Plummer, Business reporter, BBC News dated 11 June 2021. 

The article states that UK job vacancies are at their highest level since the start of the pandemic. Despite this unemployment remains at 1.7 million and employment figures show that 1 in 20 people who want a job cannot find one.  

During lockdown, many people have sought other work or transferred their skills into new jobs or even now work self-employed. 

Director of the Institute of Employment Studies Mr Wilson states that he “reckons that in future, businesses will need to pay more attention to how they recruit, train and treat staff. "When firms say, 'We can't get the staff,' they mean, 'We can't get the experienced staff,'" he says. 

Mr Wilson suggests employers need to accept staff with less experience and train them as well as support employees with health conditions or caring responsibilities.  

How can vocational rehabilitation (VR) and case management (VCM) help bridge the skills, experience and health support gap between new recruits and employers?  

As a member of the Vocational Rehabilitation Association, VR/VCM are the experts to turn to as defined by our standards of practice: 

I mentioned earlier that many people had transferred their skills from old jobs to new ones or into self-employment. Some people, especially with life changing injuries or health conditions may not know where to start or exactly how to transfer these skills.  

The good news is that conducting a Transferable Skills Analysis (TSA) are just one of the assessments that VCM/VR excels at.  

Here are a few examples… 

A client with multiple fractures sustained in a road traffic incident whilst cycling to work was deemed medically unable to resume work in his original job. He worked for as an employee as a Furniture Maker.  

Post-accident, he lost his job. I was jointly instructed by his litigation solicitors a year ago to help him find new work with a new employer.  

Following a vocational assessment and Transferable Skills Analysis, I discovered several barriers to him resuming work. There was a need to:  

  • Conduct only light to sedentary work demands due to lifting and handling restrictions. 

  • Update English Language skills to assist with gaining a future job and pass theory exams. 

  • Update a previous held Forklift Truck Driver Licence to meet UK safety standards. 

  • Manage ongoing pain 

  • Work within half hour commute to help to best manage pain. 

The assessment and research identified 3 roles that would suit the client’s health needs, work values, local labour market and skills: 

  1. Resume the pre accident original Furniture Maker role but with a new employer using adjustments to equipment, postures, tasks, hours, or workload. 

  1. Return to a former employment as a Forklift Truck Driver once training and licence was updated. 

  1. Attempt a new role within bicycle assembly or repair technician as cycling was a keen hobby. This role could be either employed via an apprenticeship scheme or working self-employed.  

Sadly, lockdown and ongoing pain symptoms have pushed our time frame back. Physiotherapy is ongoing and results of an MRI scan to help with pain management are awaited. 

The client is due to attend improving his English language training and Forklift Truck driver training before applying for local opportunities in this role.   

The process will be monitored and reviewed regularly with VCM support. Job applications, employment process and a return-to-work plan will be discussed with his future employer and the client. This will ensure that the client can sustain the new job role comfortably and productively. The aim is for a return-to-work full time by the end of this year. 

Having previously worked within DMRC, Headley Court with MOD employees for six months, it is not uncommon for people to require a TSA. This is even more important when military employees have been trained or worked solely within that field or often from a young age. They always believed they would “always be a pilot” or “submariner” for instance. They know no other job or career. 

Within the military setting I had a caseload of people with 64% Traumatic brain injury (including gunshot wounds), 21% had suffered a Stroke and 15% had other neurological diagnosis.  

My VR/VCM input helped 72% clients resume work in the Military or Civilian roles. The average before my input for this client group had been less than 40%.

Following injury, it is often the emotional trauma, fears, or perceptions about returning to work as opposed to the physical symptoms that causes more barriers to return to work. That is where VR/VCM is so vital in helping employers and employees look at other possibilities. Doing a job in a different way. What adjustments would help. Often at low or no cost. 

To get back to my original theme… 

In my opinion and over thirty years’ experience, employers need not struggle to find suitable employees. Employers need to think outside their usual recruitment “box”. To embrace support from VR/VCM or similar professionals who can help them and their new recruits. 

We know exactly where to start, the process required and how to get the best end vocational result. 

Solicitors are requested to instruct VR/VCM much earlier within the Rehabilitation Code and litigation process to help their clients post injury have the best chance of returning to work or even starting the work process.   

Employees are advised to keep an open mind and consider “what if I could do this” or “what skills do I have that I could use here” rather than “I have never done that job before”. 

Just look at the results when VR/VCM happens instead. 

  • According to the VRA, there is strong evidence from around the world that early intervention achieves a benefit to-cost ratio greater than 10:1 and more likely 18:1. 

  • 2014, Theodore, Mayer, and Gatchel study of 1,119 individuals with muscular skeletal injuries being paid monthly ‘workers compensation’ (like the UK’s ESA). Claimants return to work at least six months sooner if early rehabilitation is provided. Cost savings averaged £111,000 ($167,000) per individual; over half of which was attributed to reduced healthcare, and reduced benefits payments with improved productivity in the workplace.Cost savings would have been greater if VCM/VR provided within 8 months of injury. 

  • “Early intervention is 27% more effective with people with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury in work at twelve months and keeping them there twelve months post injury than usual care” – Radford Et Al.  

To conclude, there is a wealth of untapped recruitment and labour potential out there to help reduce UK unemployment. The benefits are clear.  

Employment provides people with: 

Financial independence with reduction on welfare benefits draining our economy. 

It boosts a person’s sense of identity and purpose 

It generally improves a person’s physical and mental health 

For employers they gain a diverse range of skills, talents, and qualifications 

Often people with a disability show higher retention rates reducing recruitment costs 

Disabled people often demonstrate higher rates of attendance with less incidents of health and safety incidents than those without.  

So, let VR/VCM professionals like me help employers, solicitors and recruits find the best match to bridge the skills and support with health needs gap. 


Where have all the UK workers gone? - BBC News 

6 Economic and social benefits of employing people with disability | Australian Human Rights Commission 

Posted on July 6th 2021

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