Having access to occupational health professionals isn’t just good for individuals and businesses; it’s good for us as a society. We know the UK faces some fundamental challenges to a sustainable healthcare and welfare system – and the financial pressure on the NHS, benefits and pensions budgets is unprecedented. We have an ageing population and a growing crisis with obesity, diabetes and other long-term health conditions. The majority of adults spend a significant amount of time in work, and with future increases to state pension age we will work for longer than previous generations. This presents an opportunity to influence people’s health for the better by protecting and improving their health at work.
Occupational health (OH) focuses on keeping people well at work – physically and mentally. The specialty focuses on:
- maximising people’s opportunities to benefit from healthy and rewarding work while not putting themselves or others at risk of harm;
- the elimination of preventable illness caused or aggravated by work;
- advising about workplace health matters;
- helping to rehabilitate those who have suffered injury or sickness back into work.
Investing in OH in the workplace is essential if we want to improve the health of the UK workforce, who are about half of the UK population. Many organisations understand this and are leading the way by investing in occupational health.
The value of occupational health
This SOM publication outlines the value of occupational health services:
Three leaflets have been produced alongside the report:
- Occupational health: A guide for company directors and commissioners of services
- Occupational health: A guide for line managers and HR professionals
- Occupational health: A guide for workers and their representatives
SOM also produced a review of The Global evidence and value of occupational health
Take a look at this personal video about the necessity to assess employees when they have medical conditions that can impact work:
- As illustrated by Alice’s story, it is important to assess employees post-offer when they have significant medical conditions which might impact on work. Adjustments made at this time has the potential to prevent any adverse effect on their impairment and maximize their potential for work. Evidence has shown early intervention services are far more successful at maintaining employees being engaged, productive and well, than referrals to occupational health after the employee has been off work on sick leave for 4 weeks or more and it is likely to be even more effective if a preventive approach is taken.
- Working days lost due to stress, depression or anxiety are on the increase and now account for 57% of all working days lost due to ill health. David Frost, former Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce, gave a talk on the reasons why businesses should invest in employee health and well-being:
- Watch B&Q's flashmob here:
You can read more about B&Q and Ageing Workers in our ‘Other Useful Resources’ section.
Other Useful Resources
Commissioning an OH service
COPHA - acts as an information body for employers seeking to access effective occupational health.
An infographic on the benefits of occupational health services for business that covers information related to sickness absences and associated costs.
B&Q and Ageing Workers
B&Q hired only over 50s in one of their stores to better reflect their customer base. Profits increased reiterating the business case for a workforce of people from all ages. B&Q now has invested in ways to better develop and retain older workers.
Business in the Community
A variety of resources, covering sleep, mental health, musculoskeletal, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence and suicide.
Acas and BEIS disability hub - clear advice and guidance on disability employment rights for both employers and workers
Health and Safety Executive
HSE Management Standards
It's important to support managers on how to support mental health and there are guides/info by SOM, and CIPD, as well as the HSE's talking toolkit and manager behaviours. Also, take a look at HSE's Management Standards and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
Mental Health: NHS Employers
- Supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace - employers can download this infographic to raise awareness of the factors that affect mental health in the workplace and the impact this has on the NHS.
- Back to basics for a healthy working environment - employers can download this infographic to raise awareness of the importance of rest, sleep, nutrition and breaks for a healthy NHS workforce.
- Tackling bullying and harassment in the NHS - employers can download this infographic to raise awareness of the impact of bullying and what organisations, managers, and individuals can do to tackle it.
- New case study on improving performance by improving staff wellbeing - The recently launched NHS People Plan includes a People Promise calling for improvement in all key dimensions of staff experience. This case study from North Bristol NHS Trust shows how they improved performance across the board and saved hundreds of thousands of pounds by prioritising and enhancing staff health and wellbeing, and is a great example of a comprehensive approach at local level.
- New guidance on financial wellbeing - highlights the impact of COVID-19 on exacerbating financial worries and inequalities and covers a range of practical steps to help employers support staff financial wellbeing.
- Summary of the NHS People Plan which has a specific section on looking after our people, focusing on supporting staff physical health and mental wellbeing, safety and flexible working.
- NHS reset Mental Health services and COVID-19: preparing for the rising tide.
Mental Health: HSE - A good starting point for employers who have yet to complete risk assessments is HSE guidance Health and Safety Made Simple. The HSE Talking Toolkit (based on the stress management standards) are designed to both help employers have effective conversations on how to prevent WRS with employees and then use these discussions to inform tangible actions in the workplace.
Mental Health: Acas - see www.acas.org.uk/supporting-mental-health-workplace.
Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD)
Wellbeing at PricewaterhouseCoopers
This article discusses the way PwC goes about improving and maintaining well-being in the workplace for employees.