In a new report, researchers have called for health and wellbeing to be more closely aligned to companies’ ESG strategies amid an alarming increase in the number of people out of work.

Business for Health, a business-led coalition, has highlighted the need for an increased focus on workplace health and long-term prevention strategies if the UK is to alleviate pressure on the NHS and boost the economy.

In the UK, health-related economic inactivity is costing the economy £180bn a year, with around 650,000 fewer people in the workforce now compared to pre-pandemic levels. Concerningly, the largest rise in long-term sickness has been experienced by those between the ages of 16-24, a rise of 50% since 2006.

With an increase in long-term sickness, authors of the report highlighted that incentivising businesses and employers to address health and wellbeing concerns among their employees is essential in the short term.  However, a long-term strategy focused on bringing “health” into businesses Environmental, Social, Governance strategy will be vital if the UK is to address systemic issues relating to long-term economic inactivity and ill health.

Recently, Business for Health launched its Work Health Index (WHI) with support from HM Government and NHS England to benchmark businesses policies and provisions relating to workplace care. The report announced that throughout 2023, Business for Health will build upon the WHI, testing out metrics gathered from the scheme in real-world projects.

This will see Business for Health enter a strategic partnership with The Health Equity Network launched by Sir Michael Marmot who has worked with areas including Greater Manchester, Waltham Forest, Luton, Coventry, Cheshire and Merseyside, and Gwent to uncover issues relating to health inequalities and is now working with the areas on implementation.

Health Inequalities remain a significant risk to the UK, with many health risks related to low incomes. Factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity together with social inequalities such as the unequal distribution of income are all drivers of population ill health.  This has led to variations in life expectancy across the UK.

The report shares key findings and recommendations on the future of workforce design in frontline, lower-wage workers in the retail and hospitality sectors, which have been particularly hard hit by the current economic climate, and must factor in the government’s economic growth plans ahead.

John Godfrey, Chair of Business for Health and co-author of the report said:

As we manage the effects of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, evidence is accumulating on the link between health and wealth. Economic growth cannot ignore the health of the population. Companies increasingly see the business case for investing in their employees’ health and productivity , and the best companies actively manage the risks to public health from their activities.

Companies need to take these actions in a planned way to forestall an approach that uses regulation, taxation or litigation to drive health improvement.  Including health in the ESGH agenda will ensure there is a profound, lasting, and positive impact for society and for business.

John Godfrey, Chair of Business for Health

The report also outlines key projects supported by Business for Health including, 1) The link between climate and health (and the co-benefits of investing for both); 2) Shaping food environments to reduce obesity and 3) Innovation clusters to create the world test for health, linking healthy people and growth and creating new AI-enabled interventions to promote health in some of the UK’s most deprived populations.

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.