The TUC has published guidance on well-being at work to help reps identify the work practices which may be the cause of workforce ill health and ensure they are involved in resolving them.

The new guidance – Work and well-being – acknowledges the complex relationship between work and health. On the one hand, work is responsible for an estimated 28.2 million days lost to ill health each year. On the other hand, not being in work can also have a devastating effect on both physical and mental health. Overall, unemployed people have around two to three times the ill health rate of those in employment and a 20 per cent higher death rate.

The guide sets out the importance of healthy workplaces and provides advice on how to handle specific issues such as smoking, obesity and stress. Stress caused by heavy workloads and demanding work patterns is also a major issue for workers in the UK, with more than 400,000 people suffering from work-related stress every year. Many other problems such as obesity, diabetes, and increased alcohol and tobacco use can also be linked to an unhealthy working environment.

The TUC guide emphasises that the key to a healthy workplace lies in preventing injuries and illnesses, and changing the workplace through encouraging better working relationships, greater respect for workers, and improved involvement of unions. However, although the law is clear that trade union health and safety reps must be consulted on any health and safety matter, some employers are saying that health and well-being does not fall within their remit. The TUC advises, however, that most well-being issues relating to work organisation (such as stress and workload) are health and safety issues which relate to prevention and that reps should therefore be included in any well-being committees that their employer may set up.

The guide also explains that many of the other initiatives that are seen as being part of a well-being programme – such as encouraging cycling or walking to work, supporting gym membership or exercise classes and promoting healthy eating – are important, and that union workplace representatives also have a key role to play in encouraging management to provide them.

Gerard Airey of Thompsons Solicitors commented “this is an excellent piece of guidance by the TUC and employers should be directed to this guide when considering issues surrounding the well-being of their workforce.”

To access the guide, go to: