Businesses make commitment to improving employee health

A raft of leading employers have signed up to a government-backed campaign to encourage workers to lead healthier lifestyles.

Food and drink firms Typhoo and McCain, and utility company Centrica, which between them employ more than 35,000 people, joined the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal in September, which is working with business and charities to make changes to help improve the health of the population.

The three firms will be helping employees quit smoking by providing workplace stop-smoking services and allowing them to go to appointments during working hours without losing any pay.

At the same time, the Co-operative Group has pledged to encourage more people to increase their levels of physical activity.

Since its launch in March, 285 organisations have signed up to the Public Health Responsibility Deal, which is also encouraging companies to get staff to use tools such as NHS Lifecheck and to take part in more formal screening programmes.

In a separate development, but also as part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal, in September, fast-food chain McDonald’s said it would be introducing calorie information on its menus in all of its 1,200 UK restaurants, announced the Department of Health.

Other restaurant chains, such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Pret A Manger and JD Wetherspoon, have all pledged to take a similar approach.

The Co-operative Group, working in association with sports camp provider Activate Sport, has said that by 2012 it will reach 20,000 young people through sports camps and double the number of camps to 500 across the UK.

The Responsibility Deal is designed to use the existing skills of businesses to improve public health and tackle health inequalities through their influence over food, alcohol, physical activity and health in the workplace.

On top of this, over the summer, the Department of Health published a series of guides for employees and line managers to help people with long-term health conditions.

Health minister Lord Howe said: “We spend a big chunk of our lives at work so it makes sense that employers look after us as best they can. And it’s good business for them to have a healthy and happy workforce.”

The Department of Health has also launched a free online health support service for veterans, serving personnel and their families. The Big White Wall will offer 24-hour access to trained counsellors.

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