The government has said it is committed to a modern industrial strategy. Its objective being to improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth.
We know that the health of employees in the workplace is a major factor in an organisation’s competitiveness and in its productivity. We think that more emphasis should be placed in the UK’s industrial strategy on ensuring that our workforce can stay fit and healthy, improve productivity and contribute to the economy. Various stakeholders, especially government also need to invest in workplace health for an ageing working population.
It means getting people back into work as early as possible and reducing unnecessary sickness absence. It means making the Fit for Work service operate as originally envisaged. It means the government investing in public health programmes (centrally or devolved through employers) to improve the health and well-being of the working-age population. It also means designing workplaces so that the working age population is exposed to safe and healthy work at any age.
Following the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper consultation in October 2016 there is clearly a need to improve support for people with health conditions and disabilities in the world of work. The government departments who form part of the Health and Work Unit have an opportunity to make the employment of individuals with disabilities and/or long-term health conditions health a component part of the industrial strategy.
According to our survey a high proportion of companies are aware of The Fit for Work service, but very few are using it. Many companies rely on interaction with their Occupational health service rather than the Fit for Work service. We know that older workers are an essential demographic in the manufacturing sector. We found that many employers are taking some essential steps to enhance the health and well-being of workers over the age of 50 so that they can continue to retain their services and at the same time address issues around long-term health and sickness absence.
The potential use of financial incentives to encourage companies to pay for employee health and well-being programmes or to help them recruit or retain people with disabilities and health conditions is very important to the employee health debate. We think the use of fiscal incentives by government deserves a closer look. Our report talks though the various fiscal incentive options and provides feedback on which type would most encourage companies to invest in worker health and well-being.