New initiative improves work health for a healthy economy

A new initiative has been launched to support small businesses in improving work health to create a healthy economy.

Speaking at the opening of Public Health England’s (PHE) annual conference, chief executive Duncan Selbie said we must look further than the NHS if we are to ensure everyone has a fair chance of good health.

Illness among working age people costs the UK economy £100 billion a year. About 330,000 every year become employed because of health-related issues.

For every unemployed person who gets a job there is an estimated saving to society of £12,035 in a one-year period.

The government says workplace health and well-being programmes such as exercise, healthy eating and stop smoking support can make a real difference to the amount of people falling ill. Successful programmes such as these have been found to return £2 to £10 for every £1 spent, benefiting staff well-being and economic productivity.

Most big employers already have plans in place to improve their staff’s health but many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) do not benefit from such programmes.

PHE and Healthy Working Futures, a workplace health provider, have set out advice for SMEs. It gives SMEs a series of questions on health and well-being including smoking, fitness and sleep, which staff can answer anonymously, enabling them to assess the specific needs of their workforce and create tailored steps to improve their staff’s health and well-being.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) will also publish new guidance on how businesses can improve their workers’ health, with advice on physical and mental health.

Duncan Selbie, PHE chief executive, said: “Work is the key to a long, happy and healthy life. But sickness absence and tackling early retirement due to ill health are still major challenges for the economy.

“This new package of support for small businesses will help businesses improve the health of their staff.

“We can no longer see the health service as the only solution to our ills. We’ve got individual responsibility, and so do employers. Keeping people healthy not only benefits the individual but also benefits the economy and the local community.

“We must do more to improve health outcomes, and in turn the health and economic productivity of the country. I urge employers to take advantage of this support.”

Mike Cherry, chairman of FSB, said: “Improved wellbeing benefits individual businesses. But more than that, it helps the wider economy, government and public services, as well as the local communities where small businesses play such an important role. There’s never going to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach and not every idea will work for every business – that’s why we’re very pleased to be working with Public Health England in particular to help smaller businesses and the self-employed.

“The FSB will soon launch its first wellbeing campaign aimed at providing some simple ideas and suggestions that smaller firms can look to adopt to support themselves and their staff. This sits alongside the medical and health advice service we already offer our members. We are delighted to receive the support of PHE for our campaign and we hope it acts as a catalyst for a positive conversation on wellbeing and mental health.”

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