Risk professionals can do more on poor health – Institute of Health Equity

Group risk advisers should be less coy about talking to clients about fundamental management issues that impact health and wellbeing, says Dr Angela Donkin, senior advisor at the Institute of Health Equity, UCL.

Speaking at the Corporate Adviser Group Risk Forum The Future of Workplace Protection held on Wednesday September 11th, Donkin argued that group risk professionals should raise issues such as the negative effects on health and productivity caused by factors such as low pay.

During her keynote session Getting the UK Working Again, Donkin highlighted the correlation between low income and ill health across the UK population, citing statistics that show over half of people in London live in households with incomes below the minimum required for healthy living, contributing to poor mental and physical health. To help improve the health of their workers, employers should be encouraged to consider factors such as implementing the ‘living wage’, currently £7.45 across the UK and £8.55 in London, compared to the current minimum wage of £6.19.

But show-of-hands poll showed no adviser delegates at the event felt it was their role to raise the issue of low pay and the living wage with employers, with some arguing employers already have so many burdens, particularly auto-enrolment to contend with, that there would be no point. However, some delegates did agree that broader discussions relating to reward, management processes and human capital management did fall within their remit.

Donkin said: “Efforts to increase profits by reducing costs should not be at the expense of workers economic or social situation. Outsourcing, zero-hour contracts and pay increases below inflation are all deleterious to health. 

“Occupational health, following HSE stress management guidelines and improving psycho-social work environment all have a part to play in improving work environment.

“But treating workers with respect, giving them more control and paying them fairly for the contribution they make is key to improving their health and increasing respect for business.”