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How to make Occupational Health programmes work harder

Charles Alberts
occupational health

Ten tips to help organisations maximise the use of occupational health (OH) programmes. Contributor Charles Alberts, Head of Health Management – Aon.

Generally, employers use occupational health to be responsible and compliant, while also reducing costs. Aon’s 2018 Benefits and Trends survey found that 96% of employers agree that they have a responsibility to influence employee health, although only 65% access Occupational Health services*.

The common denominator for employers using Occupational Health programmes is that they help prevent employees from being absent for health reasons by enabling intervention and then offering support to help them to recovery.

Yet if OH is used proactively, it helps enhance employee wellbeing, while preventing health issues from occurring in the first place. At the same time, it helps protect employees from harm in the workplace, which avoids litigation and improves corporate image.

It’s a win-win, because although employers gain from all this, employees are likely to have improved health and have greater protection against work-related illness – while working maintains their earnings and quality of life.

Aon’s 10 steps to optimise occupational health programmes are: Invest time and energy to understand what your company and employees need. Armed with this, you can find the best provider to align with, understand and support your strategy.

Although costs of OH providers differ, so do, for instance, service levels, processes, clinical availability, capability and outcomes. Therefore, rather than focusing on cost, make your partnership decision based on the value that will be delivered to your organisation’s specific needs.

Build a close relationship with your OH provider; take time to understand all its service offerings, and use its expertise to support your business and particular employee health issues.

Engage with employees who are referred to OH, to dispel any common misconceptions. They may worry that you are trying to get rid of them or to catch them out. Instead, use the opportunity to demonstrate a caring and supportive approach.

Use OH proactively – refer employees for an assessment while they are still at work, with the aim of keeping them at work.

Provide training to line managers so they understand what OH is and how to get the most out of it. They may also have misconceptions – perhaps that an OH provider is not objective or will make recommendations that are impractical to accommodate.

The old adage ‘you get out what you put in’ applies. Carefully craft referrals, make sure all relevant supporting information is included and be clear on what you would like the provider to answer.

Involve OH in your health and wellbeing strategy, particularly combining their data with yours to inform wellbeing practices. This will help avoid unhelpful costs or programmes.

Invite your OH provider to join meetings with other health-related providers such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), in order to encourage collaboration that improves patient pathways by sharing trends and discussing new ways to tackle health risks.

Use OH as a preventative measure to protect employees against workplace hazards. Also be aware of contemporary hazards such as work-related stress, which has risen in prominence and is not confined to any particular industry or market.

At its core, OH advises employers on the impact that work has on employee health and the impact employee health has on their ability to work. With this knowledge, employers can monitor and manage health risks and provide rehabilitation and return to work strategies -including adjustments for people with health problems or disabilities. Ultimately, OH helps to protect people’s health at work through creating healthier workplaces, minimising sickness absence and improving performance.


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