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The UK Government has launched a new Occupational Health Taskforce, headed by Dame Carol Black, to address in-work sickness and reduce workforce inactivity. This initiative follows the recent establishment of the Occupational Health Innovation Fund, which has allocated £1 million to ten innovative projects aimed at enhancing occupational health (OH) services using technology. Phase Two of this fund is expected to begin in April.

Government Commitment to Occupational Health

Departments Involved: Department for Work and Pensions | Department of Health and Social Care

Publication Date: 21 February 2024 Last Updated: 22 February 2024

Dame Carol Black, an experienced health policy advisor, has been appointed as the Government’s Occupational Health Tsar. She will lead the Taskforce in improving employer awareness of the benefits of occupational health in the workplace. Currently, only 45% of British workers have access to some form of OH service. The Taskforce aims to produce a voluntary OH framework for businesses, outlining minimum levels of OH necessary to prevent sickness-related job losses and support employees returning to work after illness.

The Challenge and the Response

With only 28% of British employers providing occupational health services—compared to 89% of large employers—there is a significant gap, particularly among Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This disparity contributes to the high rate of sickness-related absenteeism, which impacts productivity and economic growth.

The new OH framework, expected to be released this summer, is part of the Government’s broader strategy to reduce inactivity levels and shorten waiting list times. The framework will:

  • Increase employer information and visibility regarding OH benefits.
  • Empower employers to improve employee health proactively.
  • Address financial barriers for SMEs and ensure framework applicability across sectors.
  • Complement existing health and disability workplace initiatives.

Government Initiatives

Minister for Employment, Jo Churchill MP, stated:

“Millions of working days are lost each year through sickness. We are helping businesses tackle this challenge head-on to boost productivity and grow our economy. The work of Dame Carol and her expert Taskforce will be crucial in driving down absenteeism and making occupational health support available to all.”

Minister for Health and Social Care, Helen Whately MP, added:

“A healthy economy is only possible with a healthy workforce. We want more people, especially those in small businesses, to benefit from good occupational health. This Taskforce will set us on the path towards a healthier workforce, boosting productivity and economic growth.”

Supporting Long-Term Health

The Taskforce’s launch coincides with the Government’s £64 million pilot of the WorkWell service, aimed at helping 60,000 individuals with health conditions remain in and succeed at work through integrated employment and health support.

Dame Carol Black commented:

“It is a privilege to chair the new Taskforce, which will review occupational health services available to employees across businesses of all sizes and create a framework to support better employee health and wellbeing. We will encourage employers to embrace practices that prevent or reduce ill-health-related job loss.”

Connexus Health’s Role in the Initiative

Connexus Health is well-positioned to support this new government initiative. By leveraging our extensive experience in providing tailored occupational health services across various industries, we can help bridge the gap for SMEs and larger enterprises alike. Our innovative health solutions, including on-site health assessments and mobile health units, align perfectly with the Taskforce’s objectives. Connexus Health is committed to enhancing employer awareness, improving employee health, and reducing sickness-related absenteeism, thus contributing to the broader goal of boosting productivity and economic growth.

Broader Government Support

The UK Government’s £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan will assist one million people, including those with long-term health conditions and disabilities, in finding work. Additionally, the Occupational Health Innovation Fund, launched recently, has provided £1 million to develop new OH models leveraging technology to increase OH providers’ capacity and capability, particularly benefiting SMEs.

Key Figures and Statistics

Current OH Access: Only 45% of British workers have access to some form of OH service.

Employer Provision: 28% of employers provide OH services, with large employers (89%) significantly outpacing SMEs (28%).

Health Impact: In 2022/23, an estimated 1.8 million workers reported work-related ill health.


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Employee access to Occupational Health: GOV.UK

Employer provision of Occupational Health: Department for Work and Pensions Employer Survey 2022 – GOV.UK

Sickness absence stats: Office for National Statistics

HSE work-related ill-health stats: HSE Statistics

Note: This content has been adapted from official government publications to provide a comprehensive overview of the new Occupational Health Taskforce and its objectives.