Occupational Health.  Building the business case.
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Business case for Occupational Health

The Society of Occupational Medicine has published a report building the business case for Occupational Health (OH). Many employers are concerned about the cost of Occupational Health services but this report aims to show that effective use of OH adds real value.

Professor Dame Carol Black welcomed the report, saying: “The health of people of working age has consequences far beyond themselves – touching their families, workplaces and wider communities. The economic costs of ill-health and its impact on work are measurable; but the human costs are often hidden. Working for a healthier tomorrow recommended an expanded role for occupational health that should be available to all. I welcome the new SOM report which distils the evidence to support investment in occupational health services and the benefits provided to people of working age, employers and society.”

Legal, moral, business and financial imperatives

The report sets out the four imperatives for occupational health: legal, moral, business, and financial. Legally speaking, litigation can risk company reputation and business can suffer as a result; from a moral perspective, the protection and promotion of employee health is an integral aspect of corporate social responsibility; in business, employee health and wellbeing is a contributor to successful performance; while financially, poor employee health is associated with costs to employers that can be highly significant.

Very usefully, SOM’s report outlines the full costs of sickness absence, including both direct and indirect costs, which is something that many companies overlook:

Direct costs

  • Restricted duties
  • Sick pay
  • Disability pension
  • Fines
  • Legal costs
  • Compensation

Indirect costs

  • Overtime cover
  • Temporary agency staff
  • Management time
  • HR / payroll time
  • Recruitment fees
  • Training of replacements

Intangible costs

  • Presenteeism
  • Lost productivity
  • Engagement
  • Staff turnover
  • Lost productivity
  • Employee relations
  • Corporate image

Access to Occupational Health services

The SOM reports that “only a minority of the UK workforce can access a comprehensive Occupational Health service. A telephone survey of 2,250 British employers in all sectors of the British economy enquiring about broad health and wellbeing provision reported that 13% of employers report providing access to OH services in the last year.

A telephone survey of 4,950 UK employers examining specifically the use of OH support defined this support as hazard identification, risk management, provision of information modifying work activities, providing training on occupational health-related issues, measuring workplace hazards, and monitoring trends in health. Using this definition only 3% of UK employers provide access to comprehensive OH services. Both surveys reported that more large organisations provide access than small companies.


If you’d like to find out more about access to ad hoc OH services, you can contact our team.