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4 reasons the Occupational Health sector is thriving

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The occupational health sector has a huge role to play in keeping our nation’s workplaces healthy.

From helping employees recover from illness and supporting their return to work; to proactively protecting and promoting worker health and putting in early interventions to prevent sickness absence... the sector is experiencing unprecedented demand.

Despite this, there’s still a huge shortage of OH professionals in the UK. Let’s look at how this specialist area of healthcare is so crucial, and why we want to attract many more talented candidates to the sector.

1 Employers have a duty of care to their staff

It’s an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This means not only assessing and controlling the effect of work on employee health, but also making sure that workers are fit to perform their jobs and ensuring that people with health conditions and disabilities aren’t discriminated against (thanks to the Equality Act 2010).

Every company in the UK needs an OH service, whether that’s in-house or outsourced to an OH provider.

2 Good health is good for business

According to market research agency Mintel, long-term sickness absence costs UK private sector businesses around £4.1 billion a year.

Given that employers can’t afford to ignore the health of their staff, occupational health is now seen as a key proactive measure in keeping employees fit, happy and healthy.

In fact, research shows that organisations that invest in OH through workplace health initiatives or employer wellness programmes see tangible benefits in productivity and employee performance.

3 More employees are talking about mental health

According to HSE figures, work-related stress, anxiety or depression are now the biggest causes of staff absence with 15.4 million working days lost to these in 2017/2018.

The OH sector has seen a huge rise in referrals related to mental health, with one OH manager of a large UK city council I spoke to recently estimating that issues around mental health consisted of 36% of all their referrals.

The plus side of this is that mental health issues are now more recognised, and sufferers are increasingly coming forward for support.

4 The UK workforce is ageing

Increase in the stage pension age means more people working into their late 70s - and even early 80s.

An older workforce means a rise in work-related health issues, as well as natural effects of ageing and conditions that affect capability to work.

With estimates that by 2025 one in three workers will be 50 or over, that gives the OH sector an added new focus: playing a crucial role in helping older workers stay as healthy as possible in work.

But there’s a shortage of OH professionals

At Gel Resourcing, where we specialise in finding skilled professional OH practitioners, we urgently need more candidates including:

  • OH Practice Nurses
  • OH Advisors
  • OH Managers
  • OH Physicians
  • OH Technicians
  • OH Screening Nurses
  • OH Physios

However, reflecting the UK workforce in general, occupational health is also an ageing profession.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health produced a report in 2017 which found that 64% of occupational health physicians (OHPs) are over 50, and 50% would likely retire in next 10 years (without adequate replacements).

It’s clearly a priority for organisations to enlist the help of OH specialists and invest in staff health & wellbeing. Working in occupational health is a chance to make a real difference to the health of the UK workforce – the sector is crying out for more professionals to carry on the good work.

More information

Gel Resourcing is part of HR GO’s specialist recruitment division, RHL.

For more information on OH vacancies or how you could join the occupational health sector from another career, please contact Chris on crose@gelresourcing.co.uk

You can also visit www.gelresourcing.co.uk 

By Chris Rose, Managing Director of Gel Resourcing