Government urges employers to take lead on worker health

Employers will be encouraged to play a bigger role in improving the health and wellbeing of their employees, as part of a new government strategy launched last week.

The Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have joined forces to improve the health and well-being of working age people.

The ‘Health, Work and Wellbeing – Caring for our future’ strategy pulls together all the different strands of governmental work going on in this area. It places responsibility not just in the hands of government, but also with employers, healthcare professionals and individuals.

Lord Hunt, minister for health and safety, said the workplace could be a positive environment to encourage people to look after their own health. But he acknowledged there were “no magic levers to pull” that would make employers active in this area.

HSE figures show that 40 million working days are lost every year to occupational ill health and injury. The HSE also estimates that only 15% of organisations provide good occupational health (OH) services to staff.

Hunt ruled out introducing financial incentives, such as tax breaks, for companies that introduced health schemes for employees. He said there was enough evidence available to prove that it was “the right thing to do”.

The strategy will be led by the new national director of OH, who will be appointed in the New Year. There are also plans to introduce leadership competencies relating to OH in management and HR training courses.

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