Occupational health practitioners can expect to see a government green paper on workplace health “before the summer”, the minister for disabled people, health and work has said.
Speaking at a conference on disability in the workplace, minister Justin Tomlinson confirmed the government does intend to take forward plans to reform provision of workplace and occupational health, as outlined in last summer’s Health is everyone’s business: proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss consultation.
This set out a range of proposals to reform statutory sick pay and improve, and extend, access to occupational health support within the workplace, including potentially some form of subsidy (perhaps a voucher system) to incentivise small and medium-sized businesses to purchase OH advice and support.
While the detail of what the government intends is still under wraps, Tomlinson said: “We anticipate the green paper coming forward just before the summer. A huge focus is around building up the capacity, what more can we do to build up the capacity of occupational therapy support within the workplace.”
Occupational Health & Wellbeing clarified with the minister that when he said “occupational therapy” he actually meant occupational health.
Tomlinson added: “It is about signposting; it is about potentially providing incentives for those small and medium-sized businesses. Because, whilst there is an initial cost, we suspect it will be considerably less than the cost if we pick the pieces up after somebody has fallen out of the workplace. A lot of it is about signposting and also about encouraging a greater pool of occupational therapists that are available to come and do that support work.”
Tomlinson also hinted that the Health and Safety Executive may be given an enhanced remit within this new landscape. “They [the HSE] should be signposting businesses of all sizes to those occupational therapists, the mental health support workers, the millions of pilots that are commissioned across the country that all-too-often struggle to have enough referrals,” he said.
Speaking alongside the minister, Tabitha Jay, director of the Joint Work and Health Unit at the Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health and Social Care, said the responses received to the consultation had been “thoughtful” and “rich”.
The questions raised in the consultation would “all be answered in what the government’s plans are in the light of the consultation, when the response comes forward”, she added.