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British Occupational Hygiene Society Says Government Workplace Plans ‘Lack Proper Regulation’

British Occupational Hygiene Society Says Government Workplace Plans ‘Lack Proper Regulation’
24 October 2023

The Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection has criticised recent proposals introduced in the government's “Working Better” Consultation. 

The consultation, from the Department for Work and Pensions, aims to seek opinions on how to increase the use of occupational health services, as well as exploring how tax incentives can boost occupational health provision.

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has expressed concern that these practices are lacking proper regulation, potentially posing risks to safety and opening doors to potential fraud.


What is the “Occupational Health: Working Better” Consultation?


With a view to reducing economic inactivity due to long-term sickness, the consultation explores opinions on several new standards relating to occupational health (OH) including:


  • The introduction of a national “health at work” standard, baselining OH provision
  • Learning lessons from other countries that have increased OH provision and considering them in a UK context
  • Developing work and health workforce capacity through new service models, partnering with the private sector to develop a “long term sustainable multidisciplinary OH workforce”


What are the British Occupational Hygiene Society’s Concerns?


In terms of extending OH provision in workplaces, the BOHS feels that using private health providers, without sufficient safeguarding and regulatory compliance could pose a serious risk of potential fraud and misuse of public funds by unscrupulous businesses. 

BOHS CEO Professor Kevin Bampton explained: “Unsurprisingly, the private health companies through whom occupational health has been provided, are very positive about proposals for a tax giveaway. However, BOHS is concerned that the scheme aims at giving money to provide the sort of services that are supposed to be provided by the NHS free through employer schemes, with potential direct impact on employee taxation and pay packets.

“There are many fantastic OH providers, but there are an increasing number who never ever step into the workplace and just take the money. There is no explicit legal duty to use qualified health professionals underpinning this proposal.”

The society also criticises the proposals for a national occupational health standard, suggesting it may lead workers to believe they are receiving care from professionals when there is no legal requirement for OH provision to be delivered by regulated, qualified professionals to the same standards as the NHS.

Alex Wilson, BOHS President, feels that the emphasis should not be on diverting employer and taxpayer resources into providing private healthcare at work, but on preventing ill-health in the first place. He said: “The number of people getting ill because of lack of protection from exposure to health risks at work is growing. Every year, we understand more about just how much impact work has on ill-health in the UK, from premature menopause to irreversible cancer. 

“With 1 in 16 working people in the UK ill because of preventable hazards at work, it makes little sense to spend a lot of money to try and keep sick people in work, without spending a little money to stop them from getting ill in the first place.”

The BOHS predicts that the plans are likely to be launched in the Autumn Statement on 22 November 2023.

Watch ThisWeekinFM's Spotlight Interview with Professor Kevin Bampton, CEO of the British Occupational Hygiene Society, here.

Picture: a photograph of a person sitting at a desk with a notebook, pen, laptop and a glass of dark liquid. The person can only be seen from the neck down. Image Credit: Pixabay

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 24 October 2023


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