Promised health and wellbeing schemes delayed

Government pilot schemes to help employers promote health and wellbeing among staff have yet to start, although it is six months since they were suggested, Personnel Today has learned.

The news has angered HR professionals, who are fed up with waiting for government initiatives which are supposed to help them, but take months to begin.

Health secretary Alan Johnson announced in January a £372m anti-obesity strategy, bringing together employers, communities and individuals to tackle a problem which could cost the economy an estimated £50bn a year by 2050.

The strategy was supposed to run pilot schemes with companies to explore how to promote health at work, such as offering healthy canteens or gym discounts. It also hinted that it may offer financial incentives to encourage companies to invest in healthier workplaces.

But six months later not one pilot scheme has begun and the idea of tax incentives is still at a “very early stage of development”, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

Clare Smith, HR director at charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, told Personnel Today: “I am not surprised. Our experience working with the government is there are lots of nice words and good ideas but it’s very difficult to put it into practice. This is just another government initiative.”

Fiona Irvine, HR director at trains company First ScotRail, agreed. “If the government was going to launch something [in January] they needed to act on it fairly quick because otherwise they lose momentum and that’s a shame.”

HR director at charity Addaction, Guy Pink, insisted it was primarily the individual’s responsibility to ensure they maintained good health. “However, if the schemes are cost-neutral [i.e. incentivised] we can introduce them,” he said.

A DoH spokesman said: “We are working with the experts, looking at the success of schemes worldwide …to incentivise both employers, organisations and individuals to encourage healthy living.”

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