Dame Carol Blacks review lacks substance

Practitioners declare Dame Carol Black’s review of workplace health and wellbeing lacks substance

Dame Carol Black’s Review of the health of Britain’s working age population: Working for a better tomorrow has met with a lukewarm reception.

The report highlights the need for employers to invest further in the wellbeing of their staff and suggests that there is a role for the government to help advise organisations on reducing sickness absence, which costs the economy £103bn each year. Black recommends that the government helps to set up a business-led health and wellbeing consultancy service that would offer support and advice to employers as well as access to occupational health services at market rates.

However, after being commissioned in 2006, two years on, some industry experts consider that her work is something of an anticlimax.

Sarah Brown, senior associate at Mercer, said: “From what I have read of this report, there is nothing in it that is particularly ground breaking. I would like to find out a bit more about how this business-led consultancy would operate but I am concerned about how useful it is going to be.”

Others say the report is too little, too late. Dr Peter Mills, chief medical officer at employee wellbeing provider Vielife, said: “It is interesting that the government has decided to wade in now and give us their [input] when in reality we needed them [to be] involved five or six years ago.”

Rather than merely setting up an advisory body, Mills believes that the government should make it easier for employers to provide cost-effective health and wellbeing schemes for its staff. “The government should be giving employers incentives to further invest in this area. Employees are [also] being penalised by paying benefit-in-kind tax on some of their health benefits. They should be given more tax breaks,” he saidNevertheless, Kate Nowlan, chief executive of employee assistance provider CiC, believes that some of the recommendations made by Black are worthwhile. “Some employers are really up to speed with wellbeing initiatives for staff, but there is huge scope for additional benefits [to be introduced]. Flexible working hours, for example, are not always smiled upon despite the words that employers say in public.”

Charlotte Bray, occupational health specialist at Aon Consulting, also believes that the report is better late than never. “We have been talking [to our clients] about early intervention in employee wellbeing for years. This report is a step forward, and provides an interdisciplinary mechanism to get the problem of sickness absence resolved,” she said.