Autumn Statement: Government to meet requests for occupational health guidance

Occupational health consultationThe government has published its response to its Occupational health: working better consultation, in which it stated it will meet employers’ requests for clearer guidance and support.

Launched in July, the consultation was exploring a possible extension of occupational health (OH) services to more employers.

The government published its response at the same time as the Autumn Statement. It plans to establish an expert group to develop a voluntary minimum framework, which will set out the minimum level of OH intervention that employers could adopt to help improve employee health at work.

It also aims to develop a long-term strategic OH workforce approach to build a multidisciplinary work and health workforce.

Ron Wheatcroft, technical manager at Swiss Re, said: “We welcomed the publication of Occupational health: working better and its aims to improve productivity and prevent ill-health-related absence and job loss. However, occupational health is just one part of the overall health landscape and we believe vocational rehabilitation (VR) has an equally important role to play alongside these services. We are, therefore, calling on the Chancellor to lay out plans to harness VR, including where these services are provided through a third-party arrangement such as an employer-bought insurance policy.”

Katharine Moxham spokesperson for industry body Group Risk Development (Grid), added: “We are strongly supportive of extending better workplace support for retaining disabled people and those with health conditions in work. We’re pleased to note that the government is keen to learn from the several business and public sector organisations that suggested ways for OH measures to be inclusive of group income protection, and wider work and health support. We were concerned that the term OH in this context could be drawn too narrowly and not reflect the fact that employers have far more at their disposal to achieve these aims, some of which can be more effective than pure OH, such as group income protection insurance.

“Traditional OH is generally an assessment and advice service, whereas VR is a multi-disciplined approach incorporating interventions, case management and tangible practical help. Additionally, an employer will have other options to bring into play such as health insurance, an employee assistance programme, health and wellness initiatives, other more specialised support services and so on. All of these bring the benefits of prevention of ill health, improved retention and improved productivity for businesses and better health outcomes for employees, including remaining in or returning to work.”