MPs recommend business ‘coalition’ to help workers stay healthy

A group of MPs has recommended the creation of a “Business Coalition for Healthier Lives” to support people stay healthier and remain in work for longer.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Longevity said organisations have a key role to play in keeping the nation healthy, as they have a direct influence on people’s income, work-life balance, mental wellbeing and whether employees can stay in work for as long as they wish to.

The health of the nation: a strategy for healthier longer lives report concluded that poor health is harming productivity in the UK and vice-versa. By improving the overall health of the nation, more people will be able to remain in work and contribute to economic prosperity.

Its suggested that businesses “must be the solution, not the problem” and recommended the creation of a ‘Business Coalition for Healthier Lives’. Those in the coalition would sign up to a “contract” for longer healthy lives, with an annual award programme and kitemark to recognise excellence.

The report said: “Employers’ actions are vital to help people keep in work in their 50s by adopting age-diverse practices, challenging ageism at work, ensuring people can refresh their skills and provide better in-work health support. The Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Health and Social Care need to review their joint health and work policies to deliver this.

“An index or kitemarking system could be developed to show how well a business is contributing to  the health of the nation and become a source of competitive advantage for participating businesses in exchange.”

The report claimed that women, on average, get their first significant long-term illness when they are 55  years old – a decade before the state retirement age.

When it is improperly addressed, poor health causes people to drop out of work, with the report suggesting that men aged 55 to 65 are less likely to be in employment now than in the 1970s.

Although preventable poor health affects every place and every social group, it stated that the effect was greater for the “poorest” people and places.

The report said: “High levels of chronic illness in the North contribute to its lower levels of employment. If the number of working-aged people with limiting long-term health conditions were reduced by 10%, it would increase the economic activity rate by 3 percentage points in the Northern Powerhouse.

“Greater Manchester concluded that the (poor) health of its population and its available workforce was one of the top three barriers to its economic prosperity.”

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