Every two seconds someone in the world will have a stroke and there are currently over 1.2 million survivors of the condition in the UK alone. What’s more, research from Kings College London has found that the number of strokes in the UK is predicted to rise by 44% in the next 20 years as a result of the ageing population. Survival rates are subsequently expected to increase by a third thanks to medical advancements. But what does this mean for HR professionals?

According to the Office for National Statistics, average life expectancy is expected to rise to 93.9 for males and 96.5 for females by 2039. Consequently, by 2028, the retirement age for men and women will have risen to 67 and by the middle of the 2030s it is forecast that people aged 50 or older will account for over half of the country’s adults. However, the CIPD’s recent report on Managing an Age Diverse Workforce report found that only one in five HR leaders have some kind of age strategy agreed at board level or were developing a business case for such a strategy.

This needs to change if we are to put in place future-fit workplace engagement strategies. However, stroke is a condition which can strike at any age. According to charity, Different Strokes, every single day around 108 people of working age or younger have a stroke. Thankfully, survival rates have increased significantly in recent years. However, returning to work during or after recovery can be challenging, with the condition being a leading cause of disability in the UK. In fact, almost two thirds of stroke survivors leaving hospital disabled in some way.

Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled employee or applicant less favourably because of their disability. However, when an existing employee becomes disabled some employers may struggle to help them with the transition.

Success lies in opening up lines of communication. No two individuals are the same position and no one knows better than the employee themselves what support they need. The best course of action is simply to ask.

Reasonable adjustments may include a phased return to work, rest time to cope with an increase in fatigue or allowing time for medical treatment. The Government’s Access to Work fund can help with financial costs associated with reasonable adjustments. A stroke survivor may have acquired literacy difficulties due to aphasia, or other lasting effects such as a lack of concentration. By concentrating solely on the person’s ability to do the job, rather than their past employment record, HR professionals can ensure that they offer the correct support.

Effectively managing disability in the workplace ultimately relies on constant engagement to ensure that an employee’s needs are adequately met on a real-time basis. As the number of stroke survivors in the workplace increases, HR departments and business leaders will increasingly have to manage adjustment requests around the condition. By getting solid systems and processes in place now, businesses can be ahead of the curve when it comes to responding to the future’s ageing workforce.

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