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Health Works: A Review of the Scottish Government's Healthy Working Lives Strategy



The public sector in Scotland accounts for about 25% of the workforce. It, therefore, has a key role to play in delivering healthy working lives. NHSScotland and local government, in particular, can take a lead both through their role as employers and as service deliverers.

National Outcome 15 23 sets out the need for public services that are high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs. The promotion of good health and wellbeing in the workplace can be a significant contributing factor to achieving this outcome. Quality and efficiency of services will be enhanced through reducing sickness absence, increasing productivity and improving staff motivation.

Public sector bodies can contribute:

  • As an employer - promoting health, safety and wellbeing in the existing workforce; recognising the benefits to productivity of a healthier workforce; promoting physical and mental wellbeing;
  • As a recruiter - supporting policies to assist the unemployed to return to work, particularly those on welfare benefits (notably IB/ ESA); offering pre-employment training, such as the NHS Healthcare Academies; identifying and meeting long-term skills gaps (e.g. plumbers) through targeted recruitment to address these;
  • Through procurement - as a purchaser of goods and services; using the contractual chain to encourage good health and work practices in suppliers; offering support to develop and implement healthy working lives policies down the contractual chain;
  • As an exemplar - committing to the paradigm of healthy working lives (work is good for health, good health in work is good for productivity); developing the role of Community Planning Partnerships through the healthy working lives contribution to Single Outcome Agreements, especially around economic development and inequalities.

Public sector bodies in Scotland should commit to adopting health and wellbeing practices in all workplaces, acquiring a Healthy Working Lives award as a benchmark of achievement. They should also adopt transparent recruitment practices for supporting the long-term unemployed and particularly those on welfare benefits back into the workplace through the provision of pre-employment support and training.

There is a need to develop a clearer 'mandate' for the public sector to engage with Health Works as an employer and to more actively promote the healthy working lives message. This should be developed collaboratively between the Scottish Government and COSLA.

Action 19: Scottish Government, COSLA and NHSScotland to develop public sector mandate for Health Works for endorsement by Ministers and COSLA leaders - by end 2010