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Fit For Work EuropeThe Work Foundation

Fit EU Blog

Discourse on work and wellbeing in the EU

Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Latvian Presidency Conference focuses on Health & Work

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

As The Work Foundation’s research has demonstrated, the health of the working age population across the EU is likely to represent a major economic and social burden over the next 20-30 years. In a context in which chronic conditions are imposing an increasingly significant burden on our healthcare systems, and where only 3 per cent of EU health spending is allocated to prevention, new approaches throughout the continuum of care (from early prevention to recovery) are urgently required.

Last week The Work Foundation, through our Fit for Work initiative, hosted a major conference to showcase innovative approaches from across the EU to maximising ‘workability’ among people with chronic illness. The conference – Healthcare Solutions to Improve Workability – was endorsed by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Riga Stradins University and we were delighted to welcome Dr Guntis Belēvičs, Minister of Health and Mr Uldis Augulis, Minister of Welfare who opened the event.

We heard contributions from Poland, Spain, Latvia, Germany and Austria, together with presentations from both the OECD and WHO Europe.

In addition, at a meeting of national representatives of Fit for Work Coalitions from across Europe, we had presentations from The Netherlands, Estonia, Finland, Czech Republic, Belgium and the USA. We also launched a new paper looking at the economic benefits of early healthcare interventions which help people with MSDs to stay in work. This paper shows that early, work-focused interventions can reduce sick leave and lost work productivity among workers with MSDs by more than 50 per cent, reduce healthcare costs by up to two-thirds, reduce disability benefits costs by up to 80 per cent, reduce the risk of permanent work disability and job loss by up to 50 percent, reduce the risk of developing a co-morbid mental illness and deliver societal benefits by supporting people with work-limiting chronic conditions to optimise their functional capacity and maintain economic independence.

The debate in Latvia focused very much on the practical steps we need to take to convince policymakers, clinicians and employers to re-double their efforts to prioritise early return to work for people with chronic health problems through earlier intervention and through vocational rehabilitation support.

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EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Response from The Work Foundation and the Fit for Work Europe Coalition

The Work Foundation, part of Lancaster University, is an applied research and policy think tank which specialises on the health of the working age population. The Fit for Work Europe Coalition has, since 2009, been conducting research on the impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the health and productivity of workers across all EU Member States.

In response to the Strategic Framework, Prof Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and Founding President of Fit for Work Europe, said:

1. We welcome the strategic framework as it recognises that workplace health and safety are critical areas to sustained economic recovery, especially as the workforce ages and as increasing labour productivity becomes a strategic priority.

2. We are concerned that the strategic framework places little emphasis on a number of workforce health issues which have a significant impact both on workers and on the businesses where they work. For example, it is clear from our own research that EU workforce health and safety cannot merely focus on the workplace causes of ill-health among workers. Pre-existing conditions which are exacerbated by work, or co-morbid health conditions where non-work factors are important and lead to workplace consequences (i.e. lost productivity, presenteeism) must also be given priority, as should the wider psychological climate of workplaces.

3. We are increasingly convinced that joined-up efforts to promote workforce health are required. We feel that the strategic framework should reflect the need for cross-silo investment in workforce health across government at national level and at EC level. We are concerned that, with austerity policies, there has been a more narrow focus on initiatives which are low cost, low risk and which do not prioritise early intervention or prevention. In addition, EU-OSH should be focusing more on coordinating efforts in national health systems to prioritise work as a clinical outcome of treatment among people of working age. Unless the expertise of OH professionals is included more prominently in the way workers with health condition receive access to health treatments which support job retention and return to work, our experience tells us that ‘work ability’ will not be given sufficient priority.

4. The strategic framework should also focus on providing more practical support for employers to make workplace adaptations & to focus on job retention among employees with long-term or chronic conditions. Dissemination of national examples of early interventions which deliver good workplace, clinical and economic results Highlighting case studies of cross-agency working at national level where employers, health systems and welfare interventions combine to promote job retention and return to work for more workers whose jobs are at risk. We would like to see existing legislation on workplace accommodations for people with MSDS, for example, focus on early intervention, and recognise the effect on work ability of pre-existing and comorbid conditions which are not caused directly by work, Specific support for small and medium-sized enterprises should also be targeted.

5. We were very disappointed that the proposed MSD Directive was abandoned after several years of development work. MSDs are the leading cause of sickness absence in Europe, accounting for half of all absences and 60% of permanent work incapacity. In addition, MSDs cost up to 2% of EU GDP, i.e. around €240bn in costs to the continent each year. Our experience is that, in matters of workforce health and safety – requiring a strategic approach – social dialogue can undermine bold, visionary and forward-looking initiatives as a result of narrow, sectional positions being taken. While seeking consensus is to be encouraged, we are concerned that measures to mitigate the negative impact of foreseeable long-term, demographic and epidemiologically important health changes in the working age population in the EU will be undermined by the occasional short-term and self-interested nature of some aspects of the social dialogue process. We would like to see the strategic framework reflect this need more explicitly.

– Ends –

Notes to editors

1. Prof Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and Founding President of Fit for Work Europe, is available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

2. The Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices.

3. Fit for Work Europe is a multi-stakeholder Coalition, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas in then UK and Europe. We aim to deliver more investment in sustainable healthcare by promoting and implementing early intervention practices. Research shows this approach is the most effective way of ensuring people with MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) can enter and remain in work across the EU and globally. Fit for Work Europe is a project led by The Work Foundation, supported by AbbVie and GE Healthcare.

4. Fit for Work Europe submitted a response to the EU-OSHA consultation on the new EU Occupational Safety and Health Policy Framework (2014-2020), which can be read here.

 

Media enquiries:

Ioana Piscociu, 020 7976 3526, ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com

For urgent out-of-hours enquiries: 0755 178 14 06

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Posted in Europe, Health Policy, Labour policy, Press Releases | Comments Off on EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020
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Musculoskeletal Disorders threaten productivity of Asia-Pacific economies, say experts

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Experts from across the Asia-Pacific Region in Tokyo today have warned that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent a major threat to productivity and economic growth. In a series of reports experts drawn from medicine, labour economics and occupational health found that MSDs are the primary cause of sickness absence and disability amongst Asia-Pacific workforces and that, as these workforces age, the problem is likely to become more acute. At the first meeting of the Fit for Work Coalition in the Region, these experts have joined forces to propose a series of solutions to this threat which they hope will unite governments, doctors and employers to improve workforce health and improve labour productivity.

Fit for Work Asia Pacific is launched

Fit for Work Asia Pacific is launched

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are the primary cause of sickness absence and disability amongst Asia-Pacific workforces, curtailing labour productivity and draining millions of US dollars from the economy every year. This is according to a series of reports published by a group of experts, who have now joined forces under the Fit for Work Coalition and launched an Asia-Pacific initiative to propose solutions to the governments.  

A major study – Fit for Work – conducted by The Work Foundation in 42 countries throughout Europe, the Americas and, recently, the Asia-Pacific informs that MSDs are causing pain and functional impairment to people living with them, as well as putting a great strain on the health and labour systems, with downstream consequences for the economy.

Fit for Work reveals that MSDs account for 53% of all disorders which keep workers off sick in South Korea. They also affect one in four adults in New Zealand, which makes them the primary cause of disability and permanent job loss in the country. Nearly 31% of Australians are living with an MSD, whilst among the 90 million Japanese aged over 30, 21.4 million (24.3 per cent), 3.2 million (3.7 per cent), and 9.1 million (10.4 per cent) were estimated to have low back, hip, and knee pains, respectively. The findings of Fit for Work are in line with a recent report by the World Bank and the Global Burden of Disease, which classifies MSDs as the second cause of disability in the world after mental and behavioural disorders.

Prof Shinya Matsuda - Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition

Prof Shinya Matsuda – Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition

MSDs are also a great financial burden for the society. “In Japan, we are losing JPY2 trillion each year in direct health care costs attributed to MSDs.” says Professor Shinya Matsuda, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan. “This is a preventable cost. MSDs are manageable conditions, provided workers are enrolled in an early intervention programme, which facilitates early diagnosis and treatment, job retention and return to work. The government should tighten the collaboration between the ministries of health, labour, welfare and finance to implement a national framework for workers living with MSDs.

Professor Matsuda is chairing a group of health professionals, labour market analysts, economists and representatives of patient associations, who have now formed the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition. The Coalition has been officially launched at a roundtable organised in Tokyo, on the 6th and 7th of April, and is currently bringing together experts from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. With support from their European colleagues, the Asian-Pacific members hope to persuade their governments to adopt national plans which prioritise early intervention programmes to MSDs.

Antonella Cardone Executive Director Fit for Work

Antonella Cardone, Executive Director Fit for Work

The new care model – Early Intervention – is currently tested in several European countries and has been successfully implemented in over 25 regions in Spain. Following a two-year pilot in Spain, the sickness absence and job loss associated to MSDs were reduced respectively by 39% and 50%. The cost-benefit analysis also shows that almost £10 were recouped for every £1 invested in the programme.

Prof Stephen Bevan - Founding President Fit for Work

Prof Stephen Bevan – Founding President Fit for Work

Prof Stephen Bevan, Founding President of the Fit for Work Europe and Director of The Work Foundation, explains “Early Intervention can be a winning solution for all stakeholders – individuals with MSDs, health care professionals, employers, policy-makers and governments. The approach reduces the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery improving patient outcomes and labour market participation, as well as driving savings to the health care and welfare systems.” 

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

–   Prof. Shinya Matsuda, Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific and Prof. Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe and a director at The Work Foundation, are available for interviews, comments and briefings ;

–   Covering 200 conditions, MSDs include widely known conditions such as back pain and arthritis, injuries caused by trauma, such as fractures, and other conditions that are the result of genetic or developmental abnormalities, as well as bone and soft tissue cancer;

–   Fit for Work is a multi-stakeholder Coalition initiated in Europe, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas. We aim to deliver more investment in sustainable healthcare by promoting and implementing early intervention practices. Research shows this approach is the most effective way of ensuring people with MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) can enter and remain in work across worldwide. Fit for Work is a project led by The Work Foundation, supported by AbbVie and GE Healthcare;

–   A summary of the Early Intervention http://bit.ly/EarlyIn

–   The Fit for Work report in Japan http://bit.ly/1shpffd

–   The Fit for Work report in Australia http://bit.ly/1lv1RH8

–   The Fit for Work report in New Zealand http://bit.ly/1mPWMfx

 

For media enquiries please contact:

Ioana Piscociu, project manager Fit for Work, email: ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com, phone: +44 20 79 76 35 26

 

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Posted in Asia-Pacific, Press Releases | Comments Off on Musculoskeletal Disorders threaten productivity of Asia-Pacific economies, say experts
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