02/25/2008

United Kingdom: health low on the company agenda

British Businesses know the value of workplace health but remain reluctant to
invest due to a gap in guidance and a lack of incentives, according to a new
report out earlier this month.

Norwich Union Healthcare's latest 'Health of the Workplace' report found that
two thirds (64%) of businesses believe that employee wellbeing has a direct
impact on the productivity levels of their workforce. However a third (33%) of
employers don't invest more due to a lack of Government incentives and a
quarter (24%) don't know where to access occupational health information - this
rose to 43% among small businesses.

The report shows that the type of incentive needed varies according to company
size. Subsidised occupational healthcare (58%) would encourage small and medium
sized companies to implement rehabilitation schemes for their staff, followed
by tax incentives for small companies (57%) and better partnerships with the
NHS for medium sized companies (48%). Better NHS relationships and legislation
(51% respectively), followed by tax incentives (49%), would encourage large
companies.

Employers, employees and GPs were surveyed for the report, which examines why
workplace health continues to challenge businesses. Sickness absence remains
companies' most pressing workplace health concern (40%), followed by ageing
workforces for large companies (20%) and a perceived lack of Government support
and incentives for small and medium-sized businesses (23%).

Dr Douglas Wright, Norwich Union Healthcare, comments: "Our second 'Health of
the Workplace' report reveals a real 'guidance gap' in employers' approach to
workplace health. Companies know the value of workplace health but many are
unaware of the services already available to them and believe that more
financial incentives are needed to encourage a better approach to occupational
health. Our report shows that it's important to bridge that gap, embed the
enthusiasm that exists on all sides on occupational health and move towards
putting workable solutions in place."

John Wright, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, explains why
Britain's 4.5 million small businesses feel especially unsupported:
"Britain's economy has encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit in the UK in recent
years, which means that there are more small businesses than ever. However
these businesses do not have the benefit of large HR departments in charge of
workplace health and need more support on this front. There is belief that if
the Government becomes more proactive in terms of providing financial
incentives to small businesses, their occupational health offering would
improve."

The research also reveals that employers believe that GPs should be more
proactive in terms of helping businesses deal with workplace health, from
helping to rehabilitate employees after sickness absence (42%) and being less
lenient in issuing sick notes (26%) to being more proactive in communicating
with employers directly to discuss employee wellbeing (24%).

Norwich Union Healthcare is one of the UK's leading providers of occupational
health and wellness solutions, with a newly launched Employer Solutions
offering and seven dedicated clinics around the UK. As both a provider of
healthcare services to employers and as a large employer, Norwich Union
Healthcare recognises the cost poor workplace health can have both to employees
and employers and the need to all work together to turn good intentions into
tangible results.

Other key findings from the report include:


  • The majority of businesses (79%) believe they have a 'duty of care' towards
    their employees

  • Most businesses (82%) and employees (69%) agree that the responsibility for
    health in the workplace is mutual between employer and employee

  • Over half of employees (59%) agree with businesses that employers should be
    more proactive in terms of providing workplace health solutions.

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AplusA-online.de - Source: Medical News Today