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As the scale of our return-to-work challenges become clear, the Covid era is likely to result in an increased expectation that employers will proactively support employee health, argues Dr Paul Williams. This is an opportunity for occupational health, but also brings with it the potential for longer-term reputational risk.
Protecting people from Covi-19 is going to get tougher, and the role of occupational health will be more important than ever. We have now entered a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic, as we begin to work towards a phased end to lockdown and eventually a post-Covid world.
About the author
Dr Paul Williams is division president of MAXIMUS UK and a former president of SOM (the Society of Occupational Medicine)
The hunt for a reliable antibody test continues, while vaccine trials are starting to show promise. The government has announced the prospect of 30 million vaccines being made available by September if trials continue to succeed, opening the possibility of coming closer to a long-term resolution to the crisis this year.
But, while there is good news as cases continue to decline and lockdown restrictions start to lift, we are a long way from returning to the sense of normality that we crave. There are plenty of difficult days ahead and every single individual and business has vital responsibilities to ensure we do not fall at this hurdle and risk a resurgence of infections.
Against this backdrop, sound occupational health advice is more important now than it has ever been. Where historically OH has sometimes been positioned as peripheral to core business operations, it can’t be anymore.
Employers are looking to us to sort fact from fiction and translate government guidance into practical, specific steps for their unique circumstances. With the reopening of the economy underway, nobody can afford to wait for a breakthrough that may be years away.
We may be in a wholly unique situation – but tried and tested approaches to occupational health are needed now more than ever.
Managing the return to work
The return to work post coronavirus will be the biggest and most complex transition of people’s working environments in modern history.
Businesses across the country are beginning an unprecedented mission to redesign offices, operations, HR processes, and management prac