Government and employers need to work together to improve employee health - Bupa
With the Disability, Work and Health Green Paper and an independent review into employer practice around mental health, it’s an encouraging time for employee health and wellbeing, says Bupa’s Corporate Director, Patrick Watt.
In the Spring Budget, the Chancellor again spoke of the UK’s poor productivity performance and strategies to improve our standing in the global rankings. While infrastructure and skills are fundamental, we very often overlook one simple factor: the health of the UK working age population.
Investment by businesses in the physical health and mental wellbeing of their employees has real potential to deliver a win-win situation when it comes to tackling low productivity levels, delivering wider social value and reducing the demand on national health services.
I meet business leaders who understand the financial and emotional case for investing in the wellbeing of their people, but they don’t always have access to the right tools or confidence to start a conversation with employees about wellbeing. The Green Paper on Work and Health has a range of interesting and important proposals to tackle this head on, from information campaigns and accreditation to the potential benefits of financial incentives.
While business leaders can act to set the working culture and environment where people thrive, I believe that Government recognition through accreditation, awards or financial incentives would shape public attitudes, raise employees’ expectations and encourage employers to go further.
If we truly want businesses to do more, Government and employers need to work hand in hand to understand both provision and funding of employer health and wellbeing services. There isn’t a one size fits all solution but our insights show that the best health and wellbeing initiatives cover prevention and early intervention right through to funding access to health and wellbeing services.
The key to success is easy and early access to confidential health services, support and guidance that helps people stay in work or get back to work more quickly. Intervening and supporting an employee who’s already been on sick leave for several weeks is often too late. The forthcoming policy reviews will be an important next step to identify what works at each stage of an employee’s health journey from prevention and intervention through to financial protection.
I see many employers taking the lead, but who want to do more. Others still need to take that first step. We could all do with a nudge from policy makers to go further to benefit from a healthier UK workforce, greater productivity and a stronger economy. We can’t afford to wait on the sidelines.