Health Minister Leo Varadkar has this week announced a new workplace initiative to get civil servants more active and health conscious.
Minister Varadkar feels tackling sickness and absenteeism through encouraging preventative action is a logical step and noted that according to the World Health Organisation, workplace health programs are one of the best ways to prevent lifestyle disease and improve mental health.
“It’s well established that a healthy workforce is a happier one with low levels of sick leave and greater productivity. So this approach makes pure business sense too for the public and private sectors. We are putting this on a statutory basis to send a clear message that we mean business in improving the nation’s health”
And to show the government mean business, the cabinet recently signed off on the “Health and Wellbeing (Workplace Wellbeing) Bill” that will require all public service employers to develop a healthy workplace policy to promote the physical, mental and social wellbeing of their employees.
Each workplace will be able to come up with their own initiatives as each workplace is different. Suggestions include the promotion of active travel, smoking cessation programs, workplace exercise groups and more nutritional choices in staff canteens.
“Each public sector employer will develop a ‘Healthy Workplace’ initiative. This has the potential to make a huge difference to the nation’s health as more than 288,000 people work in the public sector, comprising 15% of the total Irish workforce. If we can persuade more of them to get healthy, then staff are likely to be happier, and less likely to need medical help,” Minister Varadkar said.
Most private companies have similar schemes and Varadkar feels they can play a part in helping develop initiatives that have impact.
“We want to learn from them about what has worked. There will also be opportunities for companies which haven’t developed their own policies just yet. That’s why we are setting up new ways to engage with both public and private sector employers to promote healthy workplaces.”