Keep Thriving: A united effort to improve wellbeing for British workers
Pictured left to right: Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Peter McGettrick, Wendy Chamberlain MP | Credit: Paul Heartfield
At the British Safety Council’s recent parliamentary reception, MPs and peers from across the political spectrum joined industry representatives to discuss how we can ensure workers thrive in a wellbeing-driven environment.
50 years on since the Robens report, which culminated in the landmark Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), we are no longer talking about health and safety on their own. Rather we are seeing growing awareness of the impact that wellbeing has on individuals, organisations and society and how health, safety and wellbeing relate together.
With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting unprecedented levels of stress, debt, and loneliness, many employers have never felt a greater responsibility than now to strengthen the wellbeing of British workers.
Hosted by the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions, Wendy Chamberlain MP, the British Safety Council held a reception in Parliament on 14th June to discuss how we can deliver on this objective.
Speaking from her own experience as a police officer and from previous roles in HR and learning development, Chamberlain mentioned in her keynote speech that “wellbeing is absolutely vital for both workers and businesses”. In doing so, she argued that in a post-COVID landscape “looking at people's wellbeing…is going to be really important for organisations for governments, economies and countries more generally”.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions, Wendy Chamberlain MP
This renewed focus is why the British Safety Council is bringing forward its Keep Thriving campaign, designed to help improve the wellbeing of workers, within and outside of the workplace, to ensure that all of us can thrive.
Speaking on the need to tackle this issue, Chairman of the British Safety Council, Peter McGettrick, said “we all know the consequences of someone being injured or harmed at work, both to the individual and their family”, but also “their absence through loss of productivity or lost resource”, going on to cite the £100 billion cost of this to the UK economy each year.
McGettrick articulated the need to “see employers, government and society valuing and understanding best practice and wellbeing”. He said that we must “see leadership, commitment and accountability for health, safety and wellbeing from the highest levels within organisations” and workers “actively involved in developing their organisation’s, integrated health, safety and wellbeing strategy at a national level”.
Chairman of the British Safety Council, Peter McGettrick
This is where Keep Thriving comes in, which among its eight key calls to action, includes an ask from organisations and businesses to commit to:
- Appoint an executive director responsible for wellbeing, acting as a sponsor driving change
- Actively engage employees in determining workplace wellbeing interventions that work for them
- Adopt a holistic approach to health, safety and wellbeing, focused on training people to enable prevention and avoid poor wellbeing.
To help bring this about, at the Government level the British Safety Council is calling for the introduction of a national workplace wellbeing strategy to provide a framework for and a guide to investing in wellbeing and a premium paid to SMEs to support their wellbeing strategies.
Echoing the key asks of the campaign, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, stressed the urgent need to “work across political divides” on this:
“For anyone, regardless of how big the house they live in, whether they're single or attached, whether they're old or young, mental health issues such as anxiety or depression and loneliness or addiction can affect anyone…having fantastic initiatives like Keep Thriving tries to look at creating a uniform way of ensuring that no one gets left behind. Encouraging workplaces to sign up to Keep Thriving means that people don't fall through the net.”
Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP
Reflecting passionately on her time working in intensive care units during the pandemic, Allin-Khan highlighted that there are those who are often “disproportionately affected” by poor wellbeing in the workplace, from key workers who helped to keep the country moving during COVID, to those who currently live in insecure housing.
Pivotal to delivering on Keep Thriving is to learn from best practice. The reception was enriched by a number of industry representatives who provided a valuable insight into what can be achieved with a strong commitment to worker wellbeing and actively engaged employees.
When asked by The House what workplace wellbeing meant to her, Emma Willey, who is a Director at Health, Safety and Wellbeing Consultancy company ACS Physical Risk Control, said that “it is genuinely fundamental to every single thing I do”. Recalling her own harrowing experience as a survivor of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, she explained how a positive approach to workplace wellbeing helped her through PTSD from the event. She also highlighted current efforts at ACS to boost employer wellbeing, including flexible working and promoting an environment where everybody knows they can talk to one another.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of sign installation and maintenance company, XMO Strata, Steve Martin, explained how his organisation had worked with employees to develop an app, whereby any member of staff can have an anonymous conversation with their employer about wellbeing related issues. Commenting on the positive results of the initiative, Martin said “it's really broken down the barriers of talking about mental health”.
The British Safety Council has published a Keep Thriving Manifesto, which sets out their aims in more detail, as well as a Wellbeing Positioning Paper showing why better wellbeing matters.
For more information about Keep Thriving, please visit the British Safety Council’s website, where you can sign up to and support the campaign.
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