Sarah Page: Work together for a healthy working environment

Employers and employees need to work together to create a healthy workplace.

However, it is widely recognised that good work is good for health, contrasting with the higher rates of physical and mental ill-health among the unemployed and those exposed to poorly-managed hazardous work.

So it is in everyone’s interests to promote a timely return to work and appropriate rehabilitation for staff who have been absent because of injury or ill-health.

Unions can play a pivotal role. Some of our representatives facilitate contact with absent staff by explaining to them an employer’s right to keep in touch and exploring the options for that point of contact, a particular challenge if the line manager is an alleged source of tension.

Good employers already offer alternative conduits for communication as a means of avoiding this potential conflict.

Union representatives routinely act as trusted listeners, signposting people to resources and avenues for support. With experience of reasonable adjustments or workplace adaptations, they bring practical mediation that can be beneficial.

A sticky subject for some is the role of occupational health (OH), with staff occasionally suspicious that it is a front for exiting staff through capability procedures.

The perception is reinforced when OH staff are deployed within HR departments because of questions around independence and clinical governance.

We need to work together if we are to secure the job security and productivity associated with good work, good health and good lives.

Sarah Page is a researcher at Prospect