Ministers unveil plans for 'healthy workforce'

Ministers have unveiled plans to create a “healthy workforce” as the Government aims to turn around an unproductive economy.

Today a new “occupational health taskforce” has been launched to tackle in-work sickness and drive down inactivity.

Dame Carol Black has been appointed as the new head of the group to set out guidance for businesses which will include setting minimum levels of occupational health to stop sickness-related job losses.

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Areas of Yorkshire, especially Barnsley, currently have a poor record when it comes to an unhealthy workforce, with thousands of people classed as disabled or unable to work due to sickness.

Barnsley has the highest rate of people out of work due to long-term sickness in YorkshireBarnsley has the highest rate of people out of work due to long-term sickness in Yorkshire
Barnsley has the highest rate of people out of work due to long-term sickness in Yorkshire

Yorkshire Post analysis of 2021 census data found that the new seat of Barnsley South has the highest percentage of constituents in bad or very bad health, have their activities limited by disability, and are “economically inactive” due to long-term sickness.

Minister for Employment, Jo Churchill, said: “There are 280,000 more people in work in the Yorkshire and Humber region since 2010.

“But we know people still face complex barriers to work, with millions of working days lost each year through sickness. We are helping businesses tackle this challenge head on so we can help boost productivity and grow the economy in Yorkshire and beyond.

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Helen Whately, Minister for Health and Social Care, added: “A healthy economy is only possible with a healthy workforce.

“We want more people to be able to benefit from good occupational health, especially employees in small businesses, because we know it works.

"This taskforce will set us on the path towards a healthier workforce, in turn boosting productivity and economic growth".

The news comes as the Chancellor readies his Spring Budget following confirmation that the UK has entered a recession.

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Data released yesterday by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that manufacturing output voluments had fallen in the three months to February, and a faster pace than up to January.

Anna Leach, CBI Deputy Chief Economist, said there were also some “hopeful signs” as manufacturers continue to expect output to improve in the months ahead.

“As we head towards the Budget, it is critical that the Chancellor uses this opportunity to put the country on a path to sustainable growth through further steps to incentivise innovation and investment in high-growth sectors, including in manufacturing, for example, through bringing capital expenditure within the scope of the R&D tax credits scheme.”

Jeremy Hunt is also facing calls for tax cuts to help households cope with the increased cost of living as he draws up announcements for his Spring Budget on 6 March.

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However, official figures yesterday showed the Chancellor has less room to offer such cuts as he has a smaller-than-expected surplus in January.

But economists said there was some cheer for the Chancellor as revisions to data from previous months meant borrowing for the financial year to March should come in below the £123.9 billion forecast by the UK’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Rumours are swirling over possible plans to cut the basic rate of income tax as the Government looks to deliver giveaways with mass appeal ahead of the election, but Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott said the Government “will not speculate” on whether borrowing figures have given it room to deliver tax cuts in the Budget.