A growing number of people in the UK are unable to work due to long-term sickness, with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealing that 2.5 million people are not in employment due to health issues.
The rise is attributed to an increase in mental health problems and back pain, which are causing many to take extended time off work.
Emma, who wished to remain anonymous, is one of those affected.
She contracted Covid
while working in a healthcare role and has been unable to return to her job.
Despite her desire to work, she has lost her self-esteem and confidence, and feels "written off" and "ashamed" of her situation.
She believes that with some changes from her employer, she would be able to return to her role.
Nicola Allen, from Whitchurch in Cardiff, has also experienced difficulty returning to work.
She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome after experiencing health issues during pregnancy, and was unable to return to her previous career as an assistant buyer for a high street clothing shop.
After being out of work for eight years, she has recently been offered a part-time job through a friend's company.
The rise in long-term sickness is also affecting businesses, with the Federation of Small Businesses estimating that illness costs UK businesses £5 billion a year.
The Welsh government is working to help people with ill-health return to work, with a focus on supporting those who are most in need.
While the COVID
-19 pandemic has undoubtedly played a role in the rise of long-term sickness, it is clear that there are a variety of factors at play.
It is essential that employers and the government work together to support those who are unable to work due to illness and provide them with the opportunities and support they need to return to the workforce.
The UK Government has announced a significant investment of £3.5 billion to support people with long-term illnesses to find and maintain employment.
The plan aims to help millions of individuals, including those who are unable to work, to start, stay, and succeed in their jobs.
According to recent statistics, inactivity in Wales has decreased since the last quarter, indicating that the plan is making progress.
However, for those who are still unable to return to work, employers can choose to pay more in occupational sick pay for a longer period, while Universal Credit provides a strong financial safety net for those who require additional support.
The UK Government recognizes that long-term illnesses can be a significant barrier to employment, and the investment is aimed at helping individuals overcome this challenge.
The funding will be used to support a range of initiatives, such as Access to Work, which provides financial assistance to cover the costs of disability-related expenses in the workplace.
In addition to the financial support, the UK Government is committed to changing the culture of employment and ensuring that employers are more understanding and supportive of employees with long-term illnesses.
The plan also includes training and education programs for employers to help them better manage employees with health conditions.
Overall, the £3.5 billion investment is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment for individuals with long-term illnesses.
With the right support, individuals with health conditions can thrive in their careers and contribute to the economy, while employers can benefit from a more productive and motivated workforce.