Occupational health ‘tsar’ launches survey of working-age population

The government has launched what is thought to be the first ever review of the health of the working-age population.

The aim of ‘Working for Health’ is to uncover practical steps to improve people’s health and help them remain in or return to work.

Dame Carol Black, the national director for health and work, will lead the review.

Speaking at the launch, work and pensions secretary Peter Hain said: “Last year, 175 million working days were lost to sickness absence, costing organisations about £650 per employee.

“But the human cost is worse. Without the right support people can slip into a life on benefits and lose contact with the labour market. This means that we urgently need to address how we can improve people’s health and support them to stay in or return to work.”

Questions Black will be seeking answers to include:

  • How can we keep working-age people healthy and how can the workplace be used to promote health?
  • How can people best be helped to remain in or quickly return to work when they develop health conditions, including chronic disease or disabilities?
  • What underlies the apparent growth in mental health problems in the working-age population and how can this be addressed?
  • What constitutes effective occupational health provision and how can it be made available to all?
  • What are the costs of working age ill-health to business and what are the benefits to companies of investing in the health of their staff?

“A motivated and engaged workforce is far more productive and efficient,” Black said.

“But why don’t more employers invest in this area? Do GPs provide the right advice to patients? What support should the government provide? I will be seeking answers to tough questions like these over the coming months,” she added.

Organisations are being encouraged to contribute to the consultation via the Working for Health website.

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