IOSH wellbeing policy

'Wellbeing' is about people's experience of their quality of life, including their working life. We know that 'good work' is good for health and wellbeing and among other things, this is work that's healthy, safe, supportive and accommodates people's needs.

As large parts of employees' lives are spent at work, employers can and should play an important role in helping them achieve better quality working lives and the occupational safety and health community can help support improved wellbeing at work.

Work-related health and safety risks need to be effectively managed before the introduction of wellbeing programmes and these should be based on worker consultation and support wider strategies, such as health and safety and HR

The facts

  • 'Wellbeing' is about people's experience of their quality of life, including their working life.
  • It has been defined as: “Creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation" (CIPD).
  • This definition is linked to employee engagement and creating organisations that employees will want to work for, because they feel safe, valued, and part of a supportive work community.
  • In 2010 the UK Prime Minister launched a National Wellbeing Programme and the Office for National Statistics have done work on measuring national wellbeing.
  • Fostering wellbeing makes good business sense too: a review showed positive perceptions about work were linked to higher productivity, profitability and staff retention and a 2013 report on wellbeing programmes showed they can give business benefits through cost savings or additional revenue generation.
  • We know that 'good work' is good for health and wellbeing and among other things, this means work that's healthy, safe, supportive and accommodates people's needs.
  • However, in 2014-15, an estimated 27.3 million working days were lost overall to work-related injury (4.1 million) and ill health (23.3 million). Around 80% of new work-related conditions were either musculoskeletal disorders or stress, depression or anxiety.

Our position

As large parts of employees' lives are spent at work, employers can and should play an important role in helping them achieve better quality working lives and the occupational safety and health community can help support improved wellbeing at work.

IOSH believes good work is good for health and wellbeing and that all work should be healthy, safe and supportive. Occupational safety and health risks need to be effectively managed before wellbeing programmes are introduced and interventions should be evidence-based and evaluated.Wellbeing programmes should be based on worker consultation and support wider employer strategies, such as those for employee health and safety and HR issues.

We advocate a holistic, proactive approach to managing health and rehabilitation issues at work, with everyone working together, workers, managers, general practitioners, human resource and health and safety professionals, to:

  • tackle the causes of workplace injury and ill health
  • address the impact of health on employees' capacity to work, providing support for those with disabilities and health conditions and rehabilitation
  • promote healthier lifestyles and wellbeing to help improve the general health of the workforce

We provide guidance on health and wellbeing and rehabilitation to enable health and safety professionals to play an increased role in these areas. In addition, the IOSH 'Li£e Savings' campaign has free resources and case studies, including on health and wellbeing initiatives. We also provide the IOSH Blueprint competence and skills framework.

Promoting wellbeing can offer health and safety professionals a fresh approach to getting health and safety on the agenda – seen to help increase business performance by engaging and motivating employees, improve recruitment and retention and address sickness absence and associated costs. Wellbeing programmes can also be good opportunities for health and safety professionals to work more closely with other professionals and to develop their own competence.

IOSH advocates that where employers can help workers access certain therapies needed to stay in, or return to, work; tax relief should be available, see IOSH Li£e Savings report. Also, that in addition to the Fit for Work Service, small businesses in England and Northern Ireland should have free access to workplace visits and advice, similar to Healthy Working Lives Scotland or Healthy Working Wales.

Relevant IOSH consultation responses