On 22 November 2023, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published its response to the “Occupational Health: Working Better” consultation, setting out four key actions it intends to take forward. These will form part of the government’s ongoing programme to reform occupational health (OH) by increasing OH take-up and developing OH workforce capacity.
The consultation, which launched on 20 July 2023, sought views on the introduction of new national workplace health and disability standards (including a minimum framework for OH provision), best practice learnings from other countries and UK-based employer models. It also asked for suggestions of short and longer-term ways to develop and support a multidisciplinary OH workforce in order to help meet increased employer demands.
Of the respondents, those from the healthcare sector emphasised the need for easily accessible high-quality OH standards and others cited ease of access as critical to good OH provision. In response, the DWP has set out the following four actions which it plans to take forward:
- Supporting businesses through a voluntary minimum framework for quality OH provision and exploring new national workplace health and disability standards. This voluntary framework will aim to set out the minimum level of OH intervention employers could adopt to help improve employee health at work and will be tailored to different business sizes.
- Exploring new voluntary national workplace health and disability standards to provide best practice guidance for employers to support people with health conditions and disabilities to start, stay and succeed in work.
- Exploring options for a potential new small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) group purchasing framework which would enable SMEs to pool their purchasing power to benefit from economies of scale.
- Using the learning from the existing Workforce Expansion scheme to develop a long-term strategic OH workforce approach to build a multidisciplinary work and health workforce.
In light of the responses, the DWP has recognised that employers, particularly smaller businesses, would incur additional costs and burdens if OH provision were a mandatory requirement or if automatic enrolment were introduced. As such, the government does not propose to take forward those proposals.