The UK Government has taken a significant step towards tackling in-work sickness and reducing inactivity levels by appointing Dame Carol Black as the new Occupational Health Tsar. Dame Carol, a renowned health policy advisor, will lead a task force aimed at improving employer awareness of the benefits of Occupational Health (OH) in the workplace.

The Need for Occupational Health Support

Currently, only 45% of workers in Britain have access to some form of OH service, with large employers (89%) being nearly three times more likely to provide OH support compared to Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) at 28%. With an estimated 1.8 million workers reporting work-related ill health in 2022/23, the government recognizes the urgent need to address this issue.

Objectives of the Occupational Health Taskforce

The Taskforce, set to meet for the first time today, aims to increase access and uptake of OH services by:

  • Enhancing information and visibility for employers on the benefits of quality OH provision in retaining employees
  • Empowering employers to actively contribute to improving employee health
  • Removing barriers, particularly for SMEs with limited finances, by ensuring the framework is applicable across sectors
  • Complementing existing health and disability workplace initiatives, including legal requirements for OH

Developing a Voluntary Occupational Health Framework

Dame Carol and her expert Taskforce will produce a voluntary OH framework for businesses, which is expected to be released this summer. The framework will outline minimum levels of OH needed to prevent sickness-related job losses and guide businesses in better supporting employees returning to work after a period of ill health.

Supporting the Government’s Back-to-Work Plan

The appointment of Dame Carol Black and the establishment of the OH Taskforce are part of the government’s £2.5bn Back to Work Plan, which aims to help one million people, including those with long-term health conditions and disabilities, find work and reap its benefits. The government is also piloting a new £64 million WorkWell service, which will provide integrated employment and health support to 60,000 people with health conditions.

Occupational Health Innovation Fund

The UK government recently launched the Occupational Health Innovation Fund to further support the development of innovative OH models. The fund has provided £1 million to 10 projects focused on using technology to improve the capacity and capability of OH providers and increase access for SMEs. Phase Two of the fund is expected to commence in April.

Boosting Productivity and Economic Growth

Ministers Jo Churchill (Employment) and Helen Whately (Health and Social Care) have emphasised the importance of occupational health support in reducing absenteeism, boosting productivity, and growing the economy. The government aims to create a healthy economy and drive economic growth by ensuring a healthy workforce.

The appointment of Dame Carol Black and the establishment of the Occupational Health Taskforce mark a significant step towards improving employee health and wellbeing in the UK. By developing a voluntary OH framework and promoting innovative OH models, the government aims to increase access to occupational health services, reduce sickness-related job losses, and support businesses in creating a healthier and more productive workforce.

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr. Kalia helps to run the Occupational Medicine provision for London City healthcare and is a company doctor for one of the largest multinational companies based in the UK.

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