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Healthy workplaces are key to employee wellbeing

Posted in: Employer Negligence Workplace Injuries 

Employers should devote more time and effort to ensuring that their workplaces are as healthy as possible for workers. That is the advice of a recent TUC guide, aimed at promoting healthier working and helping trade union safety representatives identify what within their workplaces is making staff ill.

Sickness absence levels

According to TUC figures, around 170 million working days are lost every year because people are too ill to go into work.  Approximately 23 million of these days are down to work-related ill health, and four million are caused by injuries suffered at work.

Reducing sickness absence

Sickness absence is undesirable for both employers and workers, but many of the measures introduced to tackle it tend to focus on the best way to manage the absence once it has occurred.

The TUC guide takes a slightly different approach, and advises employers that the best way to tackle sickness absence is to stop workers from getting ill in the first place. For example, says the guide, removing the causes of workplace stress is more effective than providing on-site massage for stressed workers.

It is important the employers make all efforts to resolve the causes of work related illness or injury. Employers that fail to do so could ultimately find themselves facing prosecution, and a costly personal injury claim.

Employee wellbeing

The TUC suggests a number of ways that employers could improve their employees’ well-being and reduce incidences of stress and other forms of ill health. These include:

  • Ensuring employees are able to take a proper lunch break.
  • Providing an on-site gym or subsidised membership of a local fitness centre.
  • Offering healthy options in the canteen and encouraging staff not to eat lunch at their desks.
  • Giving staff the chance to access employee assistance programmes, which can help them cope with personal problems that could have an impact on their performance at work
  • offer advice with financial concerns
  • advice on problems they may be having with colleagues.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady points out that work can create a lot of health issues such as back problems, and it can also be a cause of stress which is linked to the increased use of tobacco and alcohol.

Similarly, if employees are sitting down all day and only have access to junk food during their lunch break then they have more chance of developing heart disease or diabetes in later life.

Far too many days a year are being lost through ill health,” she said. “Sensible employers who are able to identify problems at an early stage, and who introduce changes to prevent ill health and promote well-being, will reduce sickness absence and increase productivity.”

New sickness absence advisory service

The Government has recently announced new measures to help employers manage long term sickness absence. 

It intends to introduce a new independent assessment and advisory service that employers will be able to access to help them facilitate an employee’s return to work from a sustained period of absence.

The Government hopes to have this new service up and running in 2014.

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