Workplace Health

Running an organisation is serious business. Keeping an organisation in business takes a lot of commitment and hard work. The workforce is at the heart of every company. We spend a lot of time in the workplace so being surrounded by healthy happy colleagues is good for everyone!

What is workplace health all about?

There are many definitions but practically speaking, workplace health can essentially be described as:

  • making the workplace as healthy as it can be, e.g., a place where the sickness absence rate is low and accidents at work are rare and,
  • Providing and promoting up-to-date and relevant health information to people who are working and who might not happen upon this advice elsewhere.

Why is workplace health important?

We need a healthy workforce for a strong economy. Healthy, happy employees are less likely to take sick leave and are more productive. A healthy person who becomes sick will recover faster.

Is this yet another burden on employers?

Point taken. There is a genuine move to offer more to employers to keep people in work rather than spending more public money later helping people who fall out of work long-term. Long term unemployment is not good for anyone.

Workplace Health is about helping employers. Please read on to find out what’s out there to benefit you and your colleagues. If you can’t find what you are looking for, contact:


This section is all about leading the health and wellbeing programme within the workplace. The size and scale of the organisation will determine how this is achieved. In all circumstances, a commitment from the very top is essential.

Leadership skill, knowledge and style influence the culture of the workplace, which in turn has a significant impact on employee health and productivity. All managers have a leadership role.

The main issues to consider are:

  • Understanding the health, safety and wellbeing priorities of employees
  • Good communication
  • Encouraging fairness and consistency in how employee wellbeing is approached
  • Acknowledging and rewarding good work
  • Ongoing learning and development opportunities for staff
  • Leadership training for managers
  • Having a complementary set of Human Resources policies

To find out more about leadership, click here

Absence Management

Authorised absence from work occurs because of holiday leave, maternity, paternity and adoption leave, compassionate leave or leave to attend training courses and events. Unauthorised absence can result from arriving late to work.

The unauthorised absence caused by sickness is the focus of this section. Sickness absence was estimated to cost the country’s employers about £29 billion in 2013.

The main issues to consider are:

  • Monitoring sickness absence in a way which helps you
  • Having a clear attendance policy
  • Managing employees who are off sick
  • Having a return to work procedure

To find out more about absence management, click here.

Getting Started 

Ask yourself the questions below. It’s important to think in the short and longer term.

What are the main causes of sickness absence in your workplace? Are there any obvious patterns? Is mental health an issue in your workplace?

How healthy are you colleagues? Are you concerned about colleagues’ drinking or smoking habits? Are colleagues a healthy weight?

What’s your accident record like? Are you reviewing your risk assessments? Do you have all your health surveillance plans in order?

How well are your managers handling those sensitive conversations with colleagues who have been off sick?

Are you sure you have the full picture of what is going on in your organisation – are you getting feedback from people at all levels of the business?

What you can do right now 

Run a health promotion campaign

Choose a health issue, which affects your workforce. Check the links below to find a campaign, which suits you.

Demonstrate to your senior managers that health is good for business

Do you need to justify starting a workplace health programme? The Workplace Well-being Tool from the Department of Work and Pensions can help you to justify any spend:

Do a staff health and well-being survey

Do you need to find out more about what your colleagues really need? You could do a staff health needs assessment survey.

This links leads to a helpful document written for employers from the East Midlands Public Health observatory:

What else can I do?

Use existing workplace health support from either Change4Life or the British Heart Foundation. There are loads of free resources out there!


British Heart Foundation:

Health and Safety

It’s often said that Health and Safety is everyone’s business. It is. Health, safety and welfare in the workplace is about saving lives and preventing the development of chronic and debilitating illnesses later in life because of exposure to harm in the workplace.

Under UK law, the employer, the employee and others with responsibility for buildings and workplaces have explicit obligations to the health, safety and welfare of everyone in the workplace.

The main factors to consider are:

  • Familiarity with the health and safety law associated with your type of organisation
  • The condition of your work environment
  • The specific risks associated with your type of work
  • Your work force

What you can do right now

As you’ll know, there is a lot of legislation covering health and safety at work. These pages cover criminal law. To find out more about civil law and on how personal claims work, I would recommend that you take professional legal advice and consult your insurer. There is a list of registered health and safety consultants on the Health & Safety Executive Website, if you wish to get professional health and safety advice:

Know health and safety law

Start with ‘Health and Safety Made Simple’ by the Health and Safety Executive to get a quick background on the laws that apply to all businesses and organisations:

Then, search the Health and Safety Executive website to find specific guidance on your type of business or occupation:

It would be useful if an employee were a members of the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety – IOSH. This organisation helps keep its member up to date with the latest news and it offers training for health and safety professionals. To find out more about IOSH, click here:

Create a Health and Safety Policy

The Health and Safety Executive has produced a template, which you can use if you wish:

Complete your risk assessments

Click here for some guidance:

There are some sample risk assessments on the HSE website to give you an idea of how to present one:

You need to keep your risk assessments up to date. Click here to find out more about your legal obligations:

Keep your staff informed

Make sure that your staff know about their legal obligations and keep everyone informed about the contents of your risk assessments. This is a team effort.

Click here to get to the official poster on Health & Safety – What you need to know’:

Include ‘Health and safety’ as a standard item on the agenda of your team briefings. Get a health and safety notice board on the premises and onto your intranet, if you have one.

Provide the required health, safety and welfare facilities in your workplace

These requirements include toilets, a supply of drinking water, washing facilities as well as basic working conditions like having enough light and ventilation.

Click here for a guide to welfare in the workplace:

Click here for a quick read on welfare facilities only:

Provide Instruction, Information and training about health and safety

Click here to find out more about who needs which kind of training:

Think about how your staff can practically raise and resolve health and safety concerns with you.

This can be very straight forward if you run a small organisation:

Have a look at ‘Do your Bit’:

You are legally obliged to consult with employees.

If you run a bigger company, the consultation route would need to be more formal. Click here for a guide on the legal requirements about consulting employees:

Useful Websites

Health and Safety Executive:


Institution of Occupational Health & Safety:

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health – training courses:

British Safety Council:

Alcohol & Substance Misuse

Addictive substances, whether legal or illegal are a concern for all of us in society. What happens when alcohol or substance misuse enters the workplace? What can you do about it? This issue is even more pertinent if your business involves a lot of road travel or the use of heavy machinery.

The main alcohol & substance misuse considerations in the workplace are:

  • The legal duties of the employer and the user
  • Supporting a worker who wants help with an addiction
  • Having an alcohol policy

To find out more about alcohol and substance misuse, click here.

Smoking & Tobacco

The main smoking related factors in the workplace are:

  • Legal duties of the employer and employees
  • Support to quit smoking
  • A smoking policy

To find out more about smoking and tobacco, click here.

Healthy Eating 

Healthy eating related factors in the workplace depend on the type of business you operate. Do you have a workplace with a kitchenette or a canteen? Do you offer corporate hospitality? Are most of your workers on the road or working from home? You can promote healthy eating at work by providing information in your buildings, via email or through your intranet. Don’t forget to take a proper lunch break!

The main factors to consider are:

  • Promoting of healthy eating in the workplace
  • Providing safe drinking water – from the tap is fine
  • Making sure that food and drink preparation facilities in the workplace are clean and well maintained
  • Taking proper lunch breaks
  • Providing information to staff about local weight loss advisory services
  • Having a healthy eating policy

To read more about Healthy Eating, click here.


Physical Activity in the Workplace

Being physically active is important for both physical and mental health. Many jobs today involve sitting down in front of a computer so grabbing small amounts of precious exercise here and there during the working day will add up!

The main factors to consider are:

  • Providing information in the workplace on the benefits of exercise
  • Promoting of local facilities and events
  • Making it easy for staff to walk or cycle to work or to use public transport
  • Taking proper lunch breaks

To read more about Physical Activity in the Workplace, click here.

Mental health

There is no health, without mental health. Taking regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding drugs all contribute to a healthy body and mind. All of these activities can be promoted in any workplace. Smoking to reduce stress can make quitting very difficult, so it is not recommended as a way to alleviate anxiety or stress. Mental health awareness can be promoted in the workplace.

The larger an organisation, the greater the prevalence rate of stress. There is a lot of practical advice out there to help you create an atmosphere at work, which is healthy and supportive.

The main workplace issues to consider are:

  • Providing accurate information about mental health to reduce stigma and increase awareness,
  • Stress at work risk assessments,
  • Mental health awareness training for staff, especially line managers,
  • Strong leadership and a supportive absence management policy,
  • Good communication throughout the organisation,
  • Having a mental health & wellbeing policy covering prevention, recovery and return to work

To read more about Mental Health, please click here.


The Wellbeing Charter Award Scheme

The Workplace Wellbeing Charter – A National Award for England

Being in work is good for us. Working for an employer who values the health and wellbeing of the workforce is even better!

An employer can gain recognition for the work done to improve workplace health and wellbeing by gaining a Workplace Wellbeing Charter Award. Organisations with the Charter receive an award certificate and the rights to use Workplace Wellbeing Charter branding.

Over 1,000 organisations have this award across England.

To find out more, please click here.