Tags: IOSH

Workplace health is a catalyst for UK’s economic growth, says IOSH

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The impact of health issues on UK workforce participation

The Office for National Statistics has recently revealed a concerning trend: 2.8 million people in the UK are not seeking employment due to health-related issues, marking a one-third increase from pre-pandemic figures.

In a recent blog, Corey Edwards, a policy expert at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), examines the repercussions for individuals, enterprises, and the broader economy.

Edwards stresses the importance of governmental action in addressing this issue through the prioritisation of occupational safety and health (OSH) investments.

Such measures, he argues, are essential not only for keeping individuals employed but also for preventing today’s workforce from becoming tomorrow’s economically inactive population.

The government’s ambitions to expand the economy and reduce waiting lists post-Brexit are threatened by the neglect of long-term sickness and the economic inactivity of over a quarter of the UK’s working-age population.

Additionally, there’s a 60% rise in the last decade of people working with health conditions limiting their work capacity, now totalling 3.7 million.

The necessity of a human-centred workplace health culture

The situation has been described as a “tragic waste of human talent and potential” by a recent Guardian editorial, which calls for a national effort to utilise human capabilities fully.

Such an approach includes revitalising the NHS and rethinking employment conditions, pay, and the dignity of work, highlighting the interconnectedness of worker health and economic prosperity.

Edwards advocates for a shift towards a more human-centred workplace culture, emphasising the widespread benefits of such a change.

By improving health and well-being at work, businesses can support all employees, including the disadvantaged, in beginning, returning to, staying, and thriving in their roles.

This strategy aligns with IOSH’s vision for strong worker and public health protections through robust workplace regulatory standards, which are seen as a driver for economic success rather than an obstacle.

The economic argument for investing in occupational safety and health

The financial implications of neglecting workplace health are stark, with poor mental health alone costing UK employers up to £45 billion annually due to absenteeism, presenteeism, and staff turnover.

However, research indicates that for every £1 spent on mental health by employers, returns can reach up to £5, underscoring the economic benefits of investing in OSH practices.

Despite the challenges ahead, as highlighted by the Resolution Foundation’s statement on the significant social and economic challenges posed by rising ill-health, Edwards remains optimistic.

The focus on enhancing mental health and well-being is crucial, requiring genuine, impactful, and sustained efforts.

IFSJ Comment

The pressing issue of health-related economic inactivity in the UK underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to workplace health and safety.

The connection between occupational safety and health investments and economic growth is clear, with benefits extending beyond the immediate workplace to the broader economy.

By fostering a culture that values the health and well-being of its workforce, the UK can navigate the challenges of the 2020s, improving employment rates and ensuring a resilient economy.

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