SOM welcomes the mention of occupational health in the 2023 Autumn statement: “The government will establish an expert group to develop a voluntary minimum framework which will set out the minimum level of Occupational Health intervention that employers could adopt to help improve employee health at work”. This builds on statements in the 2023 Budget and the Back to Work plan announced earlier in November to provide people with work and health support so they do not fall out of work, and can reap the benefits of being in work.
The related Government’s Occupational Health: Working Better consultation response announced today is also a good first step in the right direction: with measures to develop an occupational health (OH) framework that will help business understand what a good OH offer is, develop an OH standard and creating an SME marketplace for OH. SOM is pleased to see a focus on improving fit note use so that the right health professionals can be involved in health and work conversations with effective referral and support, including links with Work Well partnerships to help with treatment journeys and wider financial support. We note there is not going to be extension of certification. SOM were disappointed that there was not a clear announcement on tax incentives for SMEs to use OH.
SOM will be continuing to work closely with the DHSC and DWP. We call on the Government to build on these announcements by introducing Universal Access to multidisciplinary occupational health and making OH a major part of the NHS workforce strategy.
Finally, we call on the Government to signal to business that an effective way of using business tax cuts is for investment in their workforce’s health.