Get your voices heard

Professionals are best positioned to know the positive benefits the private sector can bring to workplace issues

The landscape of ideas which are the daily bread of the corporate intermediary is becoming more relevant to the wider business and political community every day.

In recent months we have seen the Government’s health and wellness agenda enforcing the value of employee benefits. We have also been given real hope of tax breaks for occupational health solutions that deliver improved productivity some time soon.

Dame Carol Black’s report is also recommending that workplace health should be given greater prominence, as a professional approach to human resource management not only benefits the millions of people who work for UK plc, but also makes companies more profitable. It is a shame that this second factor is the one most likely to influence government thinking on whether to take up Black’s recommendation that occupational health factors should be reflected companies’ balance sheets – but money talks.

A glance at a graph of the performance of shares of employers in the Sunday Times Best Companies To Work For 2008 list, compared to the FTSE100 illustrates the point perfectly. While the value of FTSE100 companies generally has risen around 100 per cent in the last five years, those judged by the Sunday Times to have been looking after their staff have seen their value increase at double that rate.

The industry should now lobby hard to get statistics on absenteeism, spend per employee on occupational health and employee wellbeing on the balance sheet. This should be targeted at getting City players on board -if they can be persuaded of the value of such a benchmarking exercise, surely the Government will be a pushover.

Corporate social responsibility and carbon footprint are already regularly monitored by companies, bringing real changes in behaviour. It seems strange then that a Government elected by the public should not want employers to benchmark their treatment of the public.

What’s more, those Sunday Times Best Companies are paying more corporation tax and doubtless leaving less staff to rely on the state.

The issue of state provision of healthcare is another issue where corporate advisers’ views look set to enter the mainstream. This month’s issue includes an interview with incoming Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries chairman Mike Izzard where he explains why a change of tone is long overdue in the political rhetoric surrounding healthcare funding. Izzard argues that the exponential demands of an aging population means the system will not be able to cope without some help from the private sector soon.

Tax breaks for healthcare may seem a long way off at present, and certainly before the next election, but a change of government could lead to the idea becoming a reality he argues.

These are important issues not just to our industry, but to society as a whole. As professionals, you are in a position to know what positive benefits the private sector can bring to these workplace and social issues. The key is to get your voices heard.