Occupational health must shape health reforms at work

OH has an opportunity to effect real change and play a major role in the government’s workplace health reforms, professor Mansel Aylward, director of the Unum Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University and former chief medical adviser at the Department for Work and Pensions, told delegates.

OH could be instrumental in helping to change attitudes around taking time off work and the health dangers of “worklessness”.

The health risk of being out of work for six months was the equivalent of smoking 10 packets of cigarettes a day, he said.

Suicide rates of young men who are out of work for six months increased by 40 times.

“It is often not the disease that stops people returning to work, but other social and cultural factors,” he said.

“People say one of the things that prevents people going back to work is that they do not think they are going to be missed. Often it is their condition, not their illness, that stops them going back to work.”

You have to treat the underlying reason for the non-attendance and the immediate symptom, Aylward added.

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