Providing access to occupational health can help employers show they are socially responsible and have a healthy workplace culture, according to a report that demonstrates the value of occupational health.
A new value proposition published by the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM), collates the “best available” evidence promoting occupational health services, so that organisations can build a business case for its investment.
It says occupational health services enhance employee health, workforce productivity, and business and economic performance, as well as add value through reduced costs associated with the prevention of ill health and “intangible” productivity benefits.
It says there has never been a greater need to consider the value of occupational health, with organisations facing risks including ageing workforces, the emergence of non-standard and precarious working models, widespread remote working, the prevalence of occupational diseases, and public health risks such as Covid-19.
Yet, the proportion of the UK workforce that can access OH services is unknown, often owing to “varying definitions of occupational health services” and small sample sizes in studies that have sought to quantify OH access, the Occupational health: the value proposition report suggests.
Value of occupational health
It says organisations should consider the business case for OH, which should reflect three key factors: legal (to comply with health and safety laws and regulations), moral (because it is the “right” thing to do), and financial (to reduce the cost of sickness absence or to add value).
“Occupational health professionals help employers deliver a healthy workplace culture and properly organised and healthy work,” the report says. “This, along with managing employee health, contributes to the organisation’s success.
“Providing access to occupational health also helps employers to demonstrate that they are caring and socially responsible; this can help to protect and enhance corporate image with customers, employees, investors, regulators and shareholders.
“The evidence reveals that highly effective companies commit to a culture of health; good workplaces, employee engagement, wellbeing and productivity being interdependent of one another.”
Lord Blunkett, a patron of SOM, said: “Employers who invest in employee health and wellbeing stand to reap many benefits such as from reduced sickness absence, increased productivity and recruitment and retention.
“However, not all workers have access to occupational health services and people with disabilities and long-term health conditions continue to be disadvantaged regarding gaining and maintaining employment. As this report proposes, occupational health services enhance employee health, workforce productivity, business performance and the economy.”