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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

What is Occupational Health and Why is it Important to Employers?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

According to the Workplace Wellbeing Report (Management Today, 2023) nearly 70% of line managers have not been trained on how to recognise poor mental health in their employees. So what is Occupational Health? Why is it important? And what can a business owner do to protect their employees?

HR Support in occupational health
SWan HR Consultancy

What is Occupational Health?

A report from Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee, Plan for Jobs and Employment Support (August, 2023) highlights the role of OH services in identifying and managing risks in the workplace, prevention of workplace injuries and a promotion of employee physical and mental health. Simply put, Occupational Health is a process that assists and offers impartial medical advice to organisations to help them manage staff working with an illness, injury, disability or mental health requirements, as well as supporting those who cannot work for any of the above reasons. Support in this area reduces health related job loss and sickness absence, improving productivity and workforce retention, as well as result in savings for public health.

This is often seen as working in tandem with Wellbeing Initiatives within the workplace, however Occupational Health is a structure put in place by the employer, whereas Wellbeing Initiatives are often led and supported by employees. Both can be supported by training and support by an OH consultant or HR, such as SWan HR.

What is an Employer Expected to Provide for their Employees?

An employer, by law, is required to prevent physical and mental ill-health in their employees that may occur as a result of their business activities. For example, it’s an employer’s legal requirement to make sure the equipment used by his staff is safe and PAT tested, so no one is hurt whilst using it. This is often completed via risk assessments, which gives explicit data on actions required to protect employees. Other legal obligations include:

  • Implementing health and medical surveillance when necessary

  • Ensuring workers meet the medical standards to complete the role required.

  • Review their risk assessment when a worker returns from a long sick absence or declares a health condition.

Occupational Health will look at the work environment and how that impacts the mental and physical health of employees, as well as how it affects their ability to do their job. As an employer, it’s essential to comply with equality legislation when supporting workers both in and returning to work, for example, providing an accessible area of work, or allowing for flexible work solutions.

Why is Occupational Health Important?

Other than the above legal requirements, the old adage rings true – happy employees are productive employees. A disability or long term illness doesn’t have to be the end of someone’s career, when there are options for support and growth available to them. A GP, for example, will not have the background information from the employer, and though it is the employee’s advocate, may not be able to provide advice and expertise specific to the needs of the role required, whereas an OH expert will – and the consultation can still be protected under the same confidentiality, as an employee must consent to share their assessment with the employer. This provides protection for both the employee and the employer, whilst creating a productive and safe environment to work in.

To learn more about how we can help you, contact us at SWan HR Consultancy.

SWan HR Consultancy (London and Kent)

SWan HR is an HR consultancy that specialises in HR support for small to medium sized businesses in the South East.

"Where HR Succeeds, the Business Achieves"

SWan HR was founded by Susan Wakelin, MCIPD, who is a qualified HR professional with over thirty years' experience, from setting up, auditing and improving HR functions to management coaching and supporting organisations through difficult situations, transformation and change.

SWan HR provides a broad range of tailored HR services including an HR audit, HR advice, HR outsourcing, HR coaching and project work for all businesses.

Free HR consultation

Contact Susan Wakelin now to take advantage of a free half-hour consultation to talk through your initial HR concerns and how you can manage these going forward.

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