Boosting Health To Help The Health Of The Nation

Boosting workforce health can help the UK achieve economic growth ambitions, the CBI has said whilst claiming health-related economic inactivity is costing the UK £180 billion a year.

The CBI has just launched UK-wide Work Health Index to benchmark businesses’ health provision, in collaboration with Business for Health and supported by the NHS and the government. The organisation states that Industry interventions in the working age population can reduce levels of ill-health by up to 20% by 2030. The CBI aims to help tackle the record long-term sickness absence levels restricting the UK’s productivity and undermining economic growth ambitions.

Data shows the UK loses 131 million working days a year to ill-health, costing the nation around £180 billion in GDP.


Labour shortages

On 9 November, the ONS published new data (for year 2020) that further reinforces the need to address the number of people leaving the labour market through ill health. The labour shortages this creates, according to the CBI, has a damaging impact on productivity and growing the economy will be impossible without a healthy population. 


Work Health Index

The WHI will give all businesses the opportunity to diagnose the strength of their health offer and benchmark it against peers. It will cover all workplace policies, practices and provision designed to support employee health and wellbeing, from cycle to work schemes to counselling to parental leave policies.

In the immediate term, it will help firms understand their competitiveness and enhance their employee value proposition. In the longer term, it should help businesses to create better work environments and support better health outcomes across the working age population – resulting in elevated workplace productivity.


 “Labour market resilience is a precondition to growth. Without healthy, productive employees, the UK economy will be unable to achieve the growth it sorely needs.”

– Brian McBride 

President, Confederation of British Industry


Health & wealth

“Businesses understand the link between health and wealth. While the NHS continues to serve us all in our moments of immediate need, employers across the UK have a golden window emerging from the pandemic to lean into long-term measures which enhance employee health and wellbeing,” continues the CBI’s McBride. “With the UK staring down a fiscally constrained period, the moment to boost the UK’s preventative health model is now.”


United front

With workforce health higher than ever before on the business agenda in the wake of the pandemic, the CBI believes this is the ideal time to launch this partnership between industry, government and the health service. By uniting these stakeholders, the CBI believes it can grow businesses’ appreciation of employee wellbeing as an investment rather than a cost.

The next steps will see the CBI’s health team working closely with its new partners and continuing its strategic partnership with Business for Health to bring the Work Health Index through private sector testing to public usage in 2023.


No health barriers

Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Disabled People, says: “It is clear a healthier, more productive workforce is key to driving growth and tackling inactivity. Government and employers must work together to unlock talent from those who may be facing health barriers.

“We also have a new £6.4 million online service giving employers free advice and guidance to support staff with health issues to stay in or return to, work. We are supporting the CBI’s Work Health Index which complements this by providing employers with the tools they need to build healthier, more inclusive workforces.”

Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, Neil O’Brien, says: “A healthy and resilient workforce is vital for the economy of our nation, and any steps employers make to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff are commended.”

John Godfrey, Business for Health Chair, says: “Business has a huge role in public health - as employers, as providers of healthy goods and services and as drivers of healthy local economies.

”Business is shifting the dial on climate, it is in our interest to do the same on health.”


Article written by Cathryn Ellis
16th November 2022


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