The UK Government Spring Budget has sought to address the struggles of workers with health conditions by encouraging businesses to implement improved occupational health services to help address health-related economic inactivity.
It was announced in March that the Government plans to expand the occupational health subsidy pilot scheme to support small and medium-sized businesses with the cost of implementing occupational health services. This is a welcome addition as many businesses are struggling with rising costs and do not have the funds to invest in occupational health schemes.
Jeremy Hunt explained the reasoning behind this focus on occupational health is to try and help people with health conditions before they decide to leave employment, recognising that improved occupational health services can play a vital role in this.
Other announcements to support this include:
- Embedding tailored employment support within mental health and musculoskeletal (MSK) services, including scaling up MSK hubs in the community.
- Digitising the NHS Health Check to identify and prevent more cases of cardiovascular disease.
- Ensuring NHS resources including apps for managing mental health and MSK conditions are readily available, so that more people can access support quickly.
- Piloting a new ‘WorkWell’ programme to better integrate employment and health support.
- Providing people with more rights to work flexibly.
- Two consultations on the role of occupational health in the workplace will take place:
- The Government will consult on increasing occupational health provision by UK employers, including regulatory options, boosting the supply of occupational health professional and kite-marking to assure the quality of services provided.
- It will also consult on options to increase investment in occupational health services through the tax system.
- DWP will also publish a health and disability white paper, which will outline reforms to ensure people with disabilities have the right support, opportunities and incentives to remain in employment.
The hope is that these changes will help reduce health-related economic inactivity and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. This move will no doubt be welcomed by the HSE who continue to focus on preventing work-related stress and promoting good mental health in the workplace through their Working Minds campaign, and Stress Awareness month (April 2023).