Improving Health and Wellbeing to Tackle Sickness in the Workplace

Mar 31, 2023

The CBI has announced that they are launching a new Health & Work Taskforce to tackle long term sickness, and to propose new solutions to improve health and wellbeing.  The CBI is working with both the TUC and the Health Foundation on the taskforce, which aims to identify what UK industry can do to improve the health of the workforce and the working age population more broadly.  It will also identify where the government can provide frameworks and incentives to encourage more proactive investment in health.

The recommendations are expected to be announced at the CBI conference in September.

The CBI reports that economic inactivity due to ill health is costing the UK economy £180bn in lost output, with millions of lost working days annually.   The latest labour market statistics show that within inactive people, over a quarter say this is due to long term sickness.

Many employers will be familiar with the challenge of managing health and sickness absence in their workforce.  What can be done to help with this?

Firstly, there are proactive steps that any organisation can take to improve health and wellbeing:

  • get the basics right – can employees take breaks, have opportunities to drink and eat?
  • are people able to and encouraged to take their annual leave, and can they properly switch off whilst they are away?
  • if you have food provided or sold on site, are there healthy eating options?
  • are there opportunities for employees to get outside during the working day and/or move around rather than sitting in one place?
  • do you have trained workplace assessors who can make sure employees aren’t compromising their health due to working conditions, seats/desks, etc.?
  • making sure there are opportunities for connections and relationship building, particularly now hybrid working has become more commonplace
  • Employee Assistance Programmes can be a relatively affordable way to offer employees help with their mental health

Where an employee is off sick, then we recommend:

  • starting the conversation early – don’t wait until they have run out of paid sick leave
  • get expert advice – from the individual’s GP, an occupational health service or specialist organisation
  • take a positive approach to any reasonable adjustments that could help get the employee back to work
  • listen to the employee about their ideas and suggestions – people with chronic illnesses often become very well informed about what they need and what works for them.
  • ensure a supported return to the workplace, with a planned, phased return and regular check ins to ensure that any adjustments are helping.

We are able to advise on both dealing with individual cases and with your overall health and wellbeing strategy, please get in touch if you would like to know more.