Health and Wellbeing at Work conference 2008

Dame Carol Black was the keynote speaker at the second Health and Wellbeing at Work conference organised by Sterling Events, which attracted 3,000 delegates. Here is a review of some of the key sessions.


The ‘Zest4life’ nutrition and fitness interventions at Playtex have had a positive impact on employee wellbeing, motivation, health, attendance and performance, according to European chief executive Debbie Rix. Such interventions work because they demonstrate that the employer cares, Rix told delegates. Other speakers included Keiran Parker, business manager at Barclays Bank, who told delegates about the bank’s holistic approach at one of its UK call centres, and Sue Gibson, who discussed the work Slimming World is doing at Land Rover.

Absence management

Workers are often promoted to a management position because of their knowledge and skills – without any training in managing people. This factor is frequently the cause of absence management problems, according to Malcolm Boswell, West Midlands area director at conciliation service Acas. He highlighted e-learning courses for managers, including one on managing absence (see Other speakers included Dr Chris McDonald, head of health at Royal Mail Group, who discussed its policy of integrated health management to improve attendance, and Steve Walters from the Engineering Employers’ Federation, who discussed the EEF toolkit ‘Managing sickness absence’.

Policies and procedures

Greta Thornbory, consulting editor of Occupational Health journal, talked about recent work on pre-employment health assessment, including the principle of reducing the process to three essential questions as discussed in the article Screen Test (Occupational Health, July 2006). Other speakers included Welsh Assembly HR director Bernard Galton, who explained how its absence management procedures won an Occupational Health Award in 2007. Dr Steve Deacon, group insurance director of Scottish Power, stressed the need for suitable policies for substance misuse in safety critical jobs, while Louise Harrington, assistant director HR at Hertfordshire council, implemented an innovative retirement policy.

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