New occupational health taskforce will ‘tackle in-work sickness and drive down inactivity’

New Occupational Health Taskforce to tackle in-work sickness and drive down inactivityBusinesses will be urged to tackle in-work sickness and stop people falling out the workforce, following the appointment of Dame Carol Black as the Government’s new Occupational Health Tsar. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, she will lead a new Taskforce to improve employer awareness of the benefits of Occupational Health in the workplace.

According to the government, only 45 percent of workers in Britain currently have access to some form of Occupational Health service. The new Taskforce will aim to produce a voluntary framework for businesses – which will include setting out minimum levels of interventions needed to stop sickness-related job losses, and help businesses better support those returning to work after a period of ill-health.

Just 28 percent of employers in Britain provide some form of service of this type, with large employers (89 percent) nearly three times more likely than Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) (28 percent) to do so.

“Millions of working days are lost each year through sickness”, said Minister for Employment, Jo Churchill MP. We are helping businesses tackle this challenge head on so we can help boost productivity and grow our economy. The work of Dame Carol and her expert Taskforce will be crucial as we drive down absenteeism, which we know is holding back British businesses and really focus on making occupational health support available to all.

“Our £2.5bn Back to Work Plan will also help one million people, including those with long-term health conditions and disabilities, find work and reap the benefits it has to offer.”

Only 45 percent of workers in Britain have access to some form of occupational health, and with an estimated 1.8 million workers reporting work-related ill health in 2022/23, the government says it is acting to tackle long-term sickness to help people stay and succeed in work.

The Taskforce comes as the Government gets a £64 million pilot of a new WorkWell service underway, which it claims will help 60,000 people with health conditions stay and succeed in work through integrated employment and health support.

The Taskforce plans to increase access and uptake of occupational health through:

  • Increasing information and visibility for employers and the benefits of quality provision in retaining employees in the workplace.
  • Empowering employers to play an active role in improving employee health.
  • Removing barriers by focusing on SMEs with restricted finances and by ensuring that the Framework is applicable across sectors.
  • Complementing other existing health and disability workplace initiatives, including where occupational health is required in law.

The UK Government recently launched its Occupational Health Innovation Fund which it claims has provided £1 million in funding to 10 projects to develop innovative new models of Occupational Health, using technology to improve the capacity and capability of providers and increase access for SMEs. Phase Two of the pilot fund is expected to start in April.