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Reforming policy to promote good work and health - HR and OH working together

Posted by Ann Caluori | Tue, 05/03/2024 - 11:46


Reforming policy to promote good work and health - HR and OH working together

A SOM CIPD House of Lords roundtable on 28th February


Lord Blunkett and Lord Bethell emphasised the critical role of occupational health (OH) to help address the record 2.6 million people who do not work due to long-term sickness and disability. They expressed concerns about people leaving the workplace, particularly young people, leading to productivity loss and negative impacts on society. It was questioned whether the situation was uniquely British, highlighting potential issues with management.


Ben Willmott from CIPD highlighted the challenges of economic inactivity and emphasised the need for inclusive work to encourage participation. Government policy now and after election needs to be central to creating a good work agenda which needs to be part of future industrial strategy. He highlighted CIPD pilots demonstrating the low capability of small firms in people management and suggested changes in government policies, such as improving access to OH services. He also suggested that making changes to Statutory Sick Pay could improve return to work. There is also potential for HSE to improve enforcement of the management standards in relation to managing psychological workplace risks. There should be a focus on how to help small firms recruit and retain employees - looking at job design, good people management and how to help and support people in work and prevent them from falling out of employment. 


Dr Kevin Teoh from Birkbeck stressed the importance of an integrated approach, involving HR and OH working together. He advocated for primary prevention and a better understanding of underlying issues causing poor mental health, emphasising the interdependencies between OH and HR. He expressed his strong interest in workplace design.


Other points made included:

  • the need for improved government and HSE capacity to deliver in this area and the need for business to be intelligent consumers to purchase OH. A new OH expert group chaired by Dame Carol Black was highlighted and a suggestion to reform the tax system to support health at work.
  • There is a need for an improved OH offer with consistency and clarity of what is available in the marketplace. Using the quality standard for OH of SEQOHS[1] which has recently been revised to be as user friendly as possible. OH also needs to move to be seen as a preventive rather than a punitive offer.
  • The importance of business-to-business conversations between larger businesses and their supply chains and considering the biopsychosocial elements of OH within the wellbeing ecosystem. Examples from Jaguar Land Rover and BT showed that the return on investment on OH is clear.
  • That Managers often do not feel confident to action reasonable adjustments.
  • The need for evidence-based practices.

The roundtable agreed there needed to be a collaborative approach between HR and OH within a wider ecosystem of workplace wellbeing, addressing Small and Medium Enterprises challenges of access to OH and the need for bold government policies and tax incentives in promoting good work and health.


The speakers highlighted the importance of a comprehensive approach, prompt action, and evidence-based practices in scaling up OH.