Figures from the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual statistics for 2013/14 have helped shed some light on the extent of the issue of ill health related to work. The report has shown that 23.5 million days were lost due to work-related ill health during 2013/14. In addition, 2 million people who worked during the last year were suffering from an illness (long-standing as well as new cases) they believed was caused or made worse by their current or past work.
In terms of the specifics regarding work-related ill health:
- Around 80% of self-reported, new work-related health conditions comprised musculoskeletal disorders or stress, depression or anxiety.
- Musculoskeletal disorders constitute the most common form of work-related ill health, although mental health issues give rise to the most working days lost.
In general, however, the UK is faring relatively well in comparison with other EU countries in terms of rates of work-related ill health resulting in sick leave (see the HSE report for more detail). However, this should be no reason for stepping back our efforts to prevent work-related ill health, and support those who are ill to remain in the workforce, where possible.
Fit for Work offers free, professional advice to GPs, employers and employees on work-related health matters. Advice can be sought from Fit for Work on the effect that work may be having on a person’s existing health condition, or whether a particular illness might prevent a person from doing a particular job. Currently, advice can be sought via the website and telephone line. Fit for Work offers voluntary referrals to an occupational health professional for employees who have been off sick or who are likely to be off sick for four weeks or more. The occupational health professional identifies obstacles preventing employees from returning to work, and devises a Return to Work Plan tailored to employees’ needs.