Health service professionals are frustrating employers in their attempts to promote wellbeing at work, according to a senior government minister.
Health minister Rosie Winterton said ensuring healthy workplaces was key to a successful economy. Stress alone accounts for 91 million lost days a year.
But Winterton said many healthcare professionals were hindering employers in their efforts to address the issue, because they are “used to saying: ‘yes it’s terrible being ill, stay at home and take it easy’.”
“Employers can do a great deal to take forward health initiatives but they also need support from the health service,” she told delegates at the Institute of Health and Productivity Management Forum.
“Trying to engage healthcare professionals in the argument that work can be good for wellbeing is very challenging. That’s what [the government] needs to be doing if we are going to support you in the work you do,” she said.
However, Winterton said that employers had to engage in this agenda as well. “It’s got to be a partnership – we cannot deliver what we want to do unless you are delivering too,” she said.
Stephen Bevan, director of research at The Work Foundation, said employers were still too concerned about regulatory burdens and stress-related litigation when they should tackle wider issues such as productivity and competitiveness.
Bevan said employer involvement in the government’s Choosing Health White Paper had been patchy at best, and not enough employers appreciated the benefit of having a healthy workforce.
“We need to give more voice to good employers so the great unwashed of employers can learn from them,” he said.