Rising Numbers Of People Are Falling Out Of Employment Due To Long-Term Illness

The UK economy is losing talented workers to Long Covid, other chronic health conditions and mental ill health. 

Concerning figures from the ONS this month show a steep rise in the number of people falling out of employment due to long-term illness. Astriid believes some of this loss of talent could be prevented if businesses adopted a disability-inclusive framework to the challenge of long-term sickness. 

169,000 more people have fallen out of work due to long-term health issues in the three months to August 2022. In total, almost 2.5m people report being unable to work due to ill health – the highest figure on record. 

Although unemployment is at a record low, some of this decline is due to a sharp increase in ‘economic inactivity’, which is a separate category from ‘unemployment’. This is made up of those not seeking, or not available for, work. Reasons for economic inactivity include studying, caring, and long-term sickness. It’s the rise in the latter that’s hit the headlines. 

A recent report from the Office for National Statistics notes: 

“The increase in economic inactivity during the latest three-month period was driven by those inactive because they are long-term sick or students.” The increase was especially notable among those aged 50 to 64 years and those aged 16 to 24 years”. 

If we look in more detail at the kinds of long-term condition affecting workers, we find rates of chronic illness generally have risen from 14% to 16% of the working age population, with the most significant increases being in people with more than one health condition, and including mental health difficulties and Long Covid. 

Financial Times infographic showing graphs for chronic illness, mental health, heart, blood pressure and breaking, and misc other, showing that rates of chronic illness in the UK shot up during the pandemic and continue to climb.

In response to this worrying data, commentators are calling for a robust response from government, including improved healthcare services to tackle complex conditions like Long Covid, and support for the unemployed. 

In the meantime, businesses concerned about employee attrition and loss of talent can turn to Astriid for help. We offer a package of solutions for retaining and supporting employees who develop a long-term condition, not just to remain in work but to thrive. 

Within the ‘economically inactive’ category of ONS data is a subset of people who say they want to work, and yet they are not seeking work. At Astriid we see this apparent paradox reflected in our database of registered candidates all the time. 

Between those who say they want to work, and those who say they are ready and available for work, there is quite a gulf. That gulf is the landscape of available job opportunities. If that landscape were to change shape, to include more part-time roles, more flexible and remote working opportunities, we would see people enter the landscape when they thought it was inaccessible to them. 

Our role in supporting candidates is to see them cross over from ‘want to work’ to ‘available for work’ through the offer of inclusive job opportunities. 

Some of the high rates of economic inactivity we are seeing nationally could be reduced if roles and working conditions were more closely aligned with the strengths and capabilities of people with Energy-Limiting Conditions. And with flexible working and remote working coming of age since the pandemic, there has never been a better time to embrace an inclusive culture that enables people who need reduced and flexible working hours in order to succeed at work. 

We specialise in conditions like Long Covid that come under the umbrella of Energy Limiting Conditions. Our specialist knowledge comes from a proud track record in supporting candidates with long-term conditions to enter the workplace, as well as our own lived experience of living and working with chronic ill-health.  

Our philosophy is about reframing energy-limiting conditions from a problem to an opportunity. Recruiting and retaining people with long-term conditions contributes to diversity, equity and inclusion in business. And with 15% of the world’s population living with a disability or health condition, there has never been a more important time to ensure the workforce reflects the reality of customers and service users’ lives.  

Astriid opens up an invisible talent pool of candidates seeking inclusive employment. We offer consultancy and training services to support employers looking to attract, empower, and retain talented employees with long-term conditions and disabilities. 

We will soon be launching our assessment and accreditation services as well as training and toolkits for employers and line managers. To find out more, get in touch.


Here at Astriid, we match talented people with long-term illnesses with meaningful employment opportunities. We work with employers to make sure that they can meet individuals’ needs, and help candidates through all stages of their ‘work-ready’ journey.

You can find out more and sign up as a candidate or an employer by visiting our website. You may also be interested in our research report – Employment And Long-Term Illness: The Invisible Talent Pool!