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Occupational Health Awareness Week 2023: Engaging SMES

This week is Occupational Health Awareness Week (OHAW), a partnership between SOM (The Society of Occupational Medicine) and COHPA (The Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association) to promote the importance of Occupational Health.

A staggering 2.5 million people in the UK are out of work due to long-term ill-health*. COPHA reports that two out of three sicknesses could have been prevented with Occupational Health interventions, yet only half of the businesses in the UK work with an Occupational Health provider.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a particular point of focus for this OHAW, as they are five times less likely to engage in Occupational Health support compared with large businesses.

Health is everyone’s business.

To better educate and inform SMEs, COPHA has just released a Guide for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME’s) to Occupational Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace, while SOM has released this 15-minute video on Health at Work: Why SMEs need OH support. Both resources highlight what Occupational Health is and the important role it can play in a business.

The challenges of SMEs

SMEs face their own set of unique challenges when it comes to managing health and wellbeing in their workforces – sickness and absence management is a key one. 47% of SMEs consider managing sickness absence strategically important for their business, however, for HR teams, managing this can consume valuable time and effort.

Having smaller teams means that if a critical member of staff is off sick, this may not only have an impact on business operations but also means businesses may struggle with resources to backfill or replace the role while the employee returns to better health. Occupational Health works alongside businesses as an extension to current HR processes, to not only help employees return to work faster but also provide preventative consultation to reduce levels of absenteeism from the outset.

The power of Occupational Health

Occupational Health offers a valuable solution, tailored to the unique needs and budgets of any business. It’s a journey and a process that requires buy-in from staff and managers. Talent attraction and retention can be challenging in many industries, but having an occupational health strategy in place can not only differentiate you from competitors but also demonstrates your commitment to the health and wellbeing of your people. Moreover, effective sickness and absence management can add value to your HR team by allowing them to handle cases efficiently and support employees in the best way possible.

The complex relationship between health and work

It’s crucial to recognise that no one operates at 100% capacity all the time. Health and work are intertwined and not all businesses are the same. OH acknowledges this by delivering bespoke solutions tailored to the needs of your organisation. OH is not about changing the nature of the work itself but rather wrapping better support around your employees, enabling them to thrive in their roles.

Taking the first step

So, where should an SME start when it comes to Occupational Health? The answer lies in seeking resources and advice from experts. SPire Occupational Health can provide this support and guidance. As many of our diverse clientele are SMEs, we understand the unique nature and challenges many of these businesses face and are dedicated to providing a consultative approach that aligns with your organisation’s needs, size, and budget. We offer pragmatic advice that can make a real difference in managing the health and wellbeing of your business effectively.

Some of the key Occupational Health support we currently offer to SMEs are:

Employers have a duty of care for the health and wellbeing of their employees and safeguarding this is in the best interests of both the employer and the employee. We firmly believe that occupational health should be accessible to every organisation, irrespective of its size. ohaw2023


*Based on ONS Data July 2023

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