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The Government must reassess strategy to improve health and wellbeing in the workplace

The Work Foundation

3 min read Partner content

New policy unit says Government must reassess its strategy to achieve real improvements in health and wellbeing in the workplace.

• New Health at Work Policy Unit launched by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation
• Numerous barriers remain in the implementation of health and wellbeing policies
• First paper finds companies are continuing to neglect the strong business case
• Government must empower businesses by considering new and alternative policy options such as tax incentives, a levy system, or local budget pooling

The Health at Work Policy Unit’s first paper will recommend that the Government must comprehensively reform its strategy if it’s to tackle the barriers that remain for many businesses in implementing health and wellbeing programmes. Both the centre and paper will be launched on Tuesday (21 October 2014) by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation at an event featuring Professor Dame Carol Black and Professor Sir Cary Cooper.

The paper, The Way Forward: Policy Options for Improving Workforce Health in the UK, is the first in a series planned by the Health at Work Policy Unit; its aim is to stimulate discussion and debate around possible policy measures which can increase the number of employers who are active and effective in workplace health promotion. The Unit will provide ongoing commentary and publish papers which respond to relevant political debate, as it occurs.

In the paper, the lead author, Dr Zofia Bajorek (a researcher at The Work Foundation), examines why a large number of businesses have continued to neglect health and wellbeing given the strong business case. She identifies the barriers facing employers at three main stages: planning, implementation, and evaluation of these policies. However, these barriers can be overcome by developing a health and wellbeing strategy which illustrates the potential for competitive advantage, investing in and executing evidence based outcomes which must then be measured and reported.

The Health at Work Policy Unit - supported by NAPP Pharmaceutical Holdings Limited and Bupa – in its international comparison will present the Government with a broad range of options to further encourage employers to promote health and wellbeing through:
• Fiscal incentives
• Levy systems
• Local ‘budget-pooling’
• Responsible procurement
• Health and wellbeing regulation
• Regulation for health and wellbeing disclosures and making data available to investors
• Benchmarking
• Kite-marking
• Organisational pledges

Commenting on the launch, Professor Dame Carol Black, member of the Health at Work Policy Unit steering group, said: "I am delighted to be at the launch of the Health at Work Policy Unit. The mental and physical health of the UK workforce presents considerable challenges, and the economic and social consequences for the labour market and for politicians will continue to grow. This new Unit will provide a much-needed 'hub' for innovative ideas, evidence-based proposals, evaluative data, and examples of successful practice, from both the UK and the global stage."

Commenting on the paper, Professor Stephen Bevan, director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness, The Work Foundation, said: “This first paper from The Work Foundation’s Health at Work Policy Unit aims to stimulate discussion and debate about policy measures which could be adopted to increase the number of employers who are active and effective in developing and implementing workplace health and wellbeing programmes.

“We’ve found that despite the strong business case, many companies continue to neglect health and wellbeing policies in the workplace. The Government must play a leading role in removing some of the barriers by offering advice and guidance in addition to empowering businesses through options such as tax incentives, a levy system, or local budget pooling to encourage employers to act.”

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