Motivated for employment? A qualitative study of benefit recipients

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

November 15, 2014


BackgroundThe UK Government's
objective to reduce the rate of incapacity benefit receipt has been
addressed with large-scale welfare reform, permeated with rhetoric
around recipients' motivation. However, there is limited evidence about
what determines motivation for employment or what distinguishes people
who are motivated from those who are unmotivated; we aimed to explore
this question to highlight areas to best direct support.MethodsParticipants
were recruited from general practices with high levels of incapacity
benefit receipt in Glasgow, UK. All long-term (>2 years) recipients
of this benefit were identified from patient lists, and recruitment
aimed to provide a diverse sample (eg, in terms of health condition,
age, length of benefit receipt). Semi-structured interviews were
conducted with 17 recipients and digitally recorded. Framework analysis
was used as a systematic and transparent thematic-analysis method, with
matrices produced to compare the occurrence of themes across
participants. Themes were identified from transcripts and then refined.
Ethics approval was obtained from NHS West of Scotland Research Ethics
Committee (10/S0709/46).FindingsParticipants'
preference was to be employed. However, motivation for employment was
multifaceted; it was not based solely on preference, but involved
opportunity, capacity, social circumstance, work-role centrality, and
existence of alternative options. Many participants had a complex
build-up of health and social issues throughout their lives that
culminated in their current situation and affected their motivation.
Others had seemingly more straightforward situations in that their
health stopped them from working. Nonetheless, all had multiple
interacting barriers to return to paid employment, and motivation was
affected by wider labour-market and social-context issues.InterpretationStipulations
placed on incapacity benefit recipients fail to recognise the range of
employment barriers they face. Previous research has considered
motivation as an individual issue; here we argue that motivation can be a
problem, but largely beyond individual control. Policies to tackle
motivation should not solely be aimed at individual incapacity benefit
recipients: the improvement of motivation for employment requires an
improvement in the capacity, opportunity, and social context required to
become employed. A diverse sample was achieved in terms of participant
characteristics. Glasgow has poor health compared with wider UK
populations, though barriers to employment were similar when compared
with other studies; broad themes are likely to be comparable across
populations.Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Published in

The Lancet


Volume: 384






Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users*



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest