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March 22, 2011

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Health at Work Network takes shape

Reinforcing understanding of the positive link between health and work is the focus of one of five ‘Responsibility Deal’ voluntary networks, established by the Department of Health (DH), to tackle current and future public-health challenges.

Since last September, five network groups – working on food, alcohol, behavioural change, physical activity, and health at work – have crafted a series of action pledges. The networks comprise representatives from industry, government and the third sector, and those signed up to the first phase of the Deal were unveiled last week.

The Health at Work Network, which is chaired by Dame Carol Black, national director of health and work, comprises four groups: Health and Wellbeing Local Business Partnerships – pilots where large firms mentor SMEs on employee health and well-being; Engaging SMEs – looking at ways to engage SMEs in health and well-being, and creating a website for SME-relevant information; Managing Chronic Conditions – developing guides on managing people with chronic illness at work; and Occupational Health – developing guidance to help OH services support employers in managing employees’ health.

Many organisations have committed to action in one or more areas, including Unilever, ASDA and NHS Employers. But the Deal has yet to win the support of some health groups. Paul Hollins, CEO of the British Heart Foundation, one of those yet to sign up, said: “We hope to be able to sign up to the Deal once further progress is made on developing a robust monitoring system for the pledges. There also needs to be more clarity about the timetable for reviewing progress and taking regulatory action if results aren’t achieved.”

But Dr Sayeed Khan, chief medical advisor at manufacturers’ body, EEF, warned “we need to walk before we can run”, and said it is important to examine what does and doesn’t work, and learn lessons before resorting to legislation. He explained: “Chronic conditions are going to become more prevalent, simply as a result of the ageing workforce and the impact of our lifestyles. . . But, if the Government wants to make this happen, it is going to have to invest.”

He suggested funding could be made available for companies seeking to take their pledges forward, and argued that vocational rehabilitation services should no longer be a taxable benefit.

A DH spokesperson said: “We firmly believe that a collective approach can deliver real progress more quickly than regulation. But, as the recent Public Health White Paper states, if this does not work, we will consider the case for introducing change through regulation.”

For more on the Responsibility Deal, go to

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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