IOSH: new UK approach needed to support those with ill-health and disabilities at work

A change of approach is needed in how the UK tackles work-related illness and supports people with health conditions and disabilities who wish to be employed, says the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

IOSH has made eight key recommendations as part of its consultation response. Pic credit: PA Images
IOSH has made eight key recommendations as part of its consultation response. Pic credit: PA Images

Better use of the large number of occupational safety and health practitioners (OSH) in the UK, and a “stronger multidisciplinary approach” to harnessing OSH professionals’ skills as part of workplace teams would help the UK Government achieve its aim of creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, the Institution has stated.

IOSH’s comments come in response to a joint consultation by the Departments for Work and Pensions and Health into how disabled people and people with long-term health conditions can be supported to get into, and to stay in, work.

In their foreword to ‘Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper’, Damian Green, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, state the government is “determined to build a country that works for everyone”.

In response, IOSH has made eight key recommendations for supporting diverse and inclusive workforces and protecting and improving health and wellbeing at work:

  • Utilise OSH professionals and a stronger multidisciplinary approach
  • Upskill and provide life-long learning for all concerned (training, guidance and online tools)
  • Promote the OSH business case and evaluation
  • Promote evidence-based OSH policy and practice
  • Run engaging OSH information campaigns
  • Improve OSH metrics and performance reporting
  • Provide more support for SMEs
  • Improve use of the Fit Note and Fit for Work Service

In its consultation submission, IOSH says: “IOSH believes that in order to better tackle work-related illness in the UK, and to support those with health conditions / disabilities seeking to join, return to or remain in employment, a change of approach is needed.

“To maximise the impact and efficacy of qualified occupational health practitioners, and to prevent conditions becoming chronic, we advocate that better use is made of OSH professionals. These individuals exist in large numbers; already have a level of occupational health knowledge; are well-established in the workplace; and are able to provide a support-function in terms of noticing when things may be going wrong, raising awareness, communicating policies and services, and promoting the health message.”

Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, said: “IOSH is pleased to see the UK Government’s focus in this Green Paper on taking a holistic approach to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce; an approach reflected in our own guidance.

“We also welcome the Green Paper’s emphasis on the importance of work being of the right type and the need for a joined-up approach to health and work, in which every contact counts towards ensuring people can fulfil their potential.

“IOSH has promoted the benefits of good work for health and wellbeing and advocated a stronger multidisciplinary approach for some years, with an enhanced role for OSH professionals. Building on the ill health prevention advice they already provide – they can also help employers to better support those with health conditions and disabilities at work.”

Click here to read IOSH’s consultation response in full.


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