Category: Health and Safety

August 18th, 2017 by Michael Millward

Work, any sort of work, an activity that involves a mixture of physical and mental activity, and has the promise of a reward when it is completed, has, I have long thought, got to be good for you. Having a reason to get up in the morning, the mental and physical exertion, having other people who are relying on you and just the social interaction, even when you’re arguing have got to be good for you. Or at least better for you than sitting around with nothing to do other than watch day-time TV, surely.

Well yes, the negative impact of unemployment on both mental and physical health have been recognised for some time by the NHS.

But, now it seems that unemployment may, for some people, be the better option. New research from Manchester University, has found that bad work can have a larger negative impact on a person’s health than being unemployed.

Work involving stressful activities or those that are low paid are the most likely to have a detrimental effect on health, so if you have one of these types of jobs you may actually be better off, health wise, if you give up work.

During 2009 and 2010 Manchester University looked at how people 1,000 people aged between 35 and 75 transitioned from unemployment into different types of work and used self-reporting and hormone and other stress biomarker tests to assess the impact these different types of work had on their health. Their findings have been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The highest levels of chronic stress were clearly found in the people who had who moved into poor quality work. They had stress levels higher than the people who had remained unemployed during the study. The lowest levels of stress where found in those people who had found what the researchers described as good quality work.

The impact of quality of work on health seems to be focused on mental rather than physical health. If a person found good quality work they were likely to show an improvement in mental health and people who found poor quality work had increased risks of a range of mental and physical health problems.

These findings are not as new or as radical as they may at first sound. The Institute for Public Policy Research has also identified that people in insecure or temporary employment are more likely to have mental health problems than those who enjoy the stability of being a permanent employee.

The leader of the research team Tarani Chandola, professor of medical sociology at the University of Manchester has called for employers to design jobs that include quality work activities as this is likely to impact the level of success that an individual has in that job.

The professor acknowledged the widely held view that good quality work is good for health, but called for greater acceptance of the negative impact that poor-quality work has on health.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, president of the CIPD, and professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, told People Management good work involved more than just the activities of the job. Having too much to do, being in an organisation with a culture of bullying or just not being able to see any way out of a bad job all contribute to what makes work poor-quality.

Sir Cary predicted that maintaining good workplace health and wellbeing strategies could become more difficult in the near future because of growing job insecurity and general economic uncertainty. He said that having an employee wellbeing strategy is what supports an organisational statement that an organisations employees are its most important asset. HR professionals, says Sir Cary, need to be more assertive in the board room when it comes to promoting the wellbeing agenda.

Getting boardroom buy-in to employee wellbeing strategies is a subject that I spoke about at an event organised by PATH Yorkshire,

It seems very easy to blame employers for creating poor quality work, and it is far too simplistic to suggest that part of the solution may be for people who have poor-quality jobs to simply stop going in to work and visit the Job Centre Plus instead.

All jobs involve tasks that are boring, and all jobs involve activities that are stressful. It is true that employers could improve the way in which they design jobs and how they manage the people doing those jobs so that work with the potential to be good does not turn bad because of the non-work-related aspects of employment, which Cary Cooper described.

It is also important to acknowledge that employers like the suppliers of any product or service provide the jobs that people are prepared to accept. If no one accepted job offers to do poor-quality work or walked out of jobs that made them unhappy the way in which work was organised would change quickly.

Well, I’ll put the rose-tinted glasses off and accept that it will be a long time before that happens. I won’t stop trying to help employers create work that people want to do because it helps them achieve their lifestyle aspirations at the same time as working towards the achievement of an organisations objectives. I will try and make sure that any company that works with us is focused on making their employees happy, because as Sir Richard Branson is often quoted as saying, happy employees are more productive, they create happy customers and that creates happy shareholders… I know he has taken the Virgin Group back into private ownership since then.

What the researchers at Manchester University did not tell us was what the people who found themselves in poor quality work did to improve their situation. It is too easy when you find yourself in a bad job, bored by the work you are doing, disliking the people you work with, hating your boss, and knowing that you are capable of doing something else to feel despondent. I am sure that everyone has felt that way some of the time in every job that they have ever had. It’s when the problem days outnumber the good days that you know something really needs to be done about it.

You can always buy a ticket for the lottery and hope for the best, because when you look around there doesn’t seem to be much help for people in work but poor-quality work and unhappy in that work. The priority for the Government is to get unemployed people into employment. That is part of the problem, the target doesn’t identify a difference between good and poor-quality work. Just find them a job!

The fact is though, that people who are unhappy at work do not have to simply accept that situation as their only option.

That is why I am pleased to have been asked to work with PATH Yorkshire on their Second Chance project, which helps people who are in work to gain the skills, knowledge and let’s be honest the self-confidence to take the steps that will enable them to obtain better paid work with ideally their existing employer or at some other company.

More employers should investigate how the Second Chance project might be able to help them develop their business by tapping into well, the untapped potential of their existing employees.


Posted in Health and Safety, Unemployment Tagged with: , ,

February 7th, 2017 by Michael Millward

Thousands of people have had their say on plans to introduce life sentences for killer drivers.

The Ministry of Justice opened the consultation, on 5 December 2016, and attracted over 1,000 replies in just 3 days, before reaching more than 9,000 when it closed on 1 February 2017.

The overwhelming response is one of the highest for a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation, and shows just how passionate people are about road safety and those who break the rules of the road.

Those contributing included victims, bereaved families, road safety groups and charities.

“Killer drivers”, said Justice Minister Sam Gyimah “ruin lives. While we can never compensate for the loss of a loved one, we are clear that the punishment must fit the crime.”

The contributions to the consultation will now be carefully considered within the context of  the Government’s pledge to consider sentencing powers available to the courts for the most serious driving offences.

The consultation sought views on whether the current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased.

The proposals included:

  1. increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life
  2. increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life
  3. creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of 3 years
  4. increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.

The Government  set out its plans in the coming months. But employers who provide cars or other vehicles for their employees or expect employees to use their own cars for work would be wise to use the level of public interest in the consultation process as a catalyst for increasing awareness amongst their employees of the importance of safe driving habits.

Posted in Driving, Health and Safety

April 19th, 2016 by Michael Millward

I am looing forward to the Annual Meeting of the CIPD North Yorkshire branch at which I will end six years as volunteer branch chair. Over the last six years I have met an increasing number of HR professionals who are supporting employees who are dealing with mental health issues. It has been good to see the change in attitude towards an area of health that affects a quarter of the UK population, although much more needs to be done before we understand mental health issues as well as we understand physical health. It was for this reason that I challenged Kerry Smith the volunteer leader of the branch events team to create an event, my last as branch chair that would contribute to increasing this understanding.

As the first bookings for the Annual Meeting are arriving the World Health Organisation has published research that identifies the benefits of investing in mental health services for workers has on productivity and profitability.

This year’s Annual Meeting falls in Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, and our guest speaker will be Jon Bartlett, who lives and works with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.

In the United Kingdom some 70 million working days are lost each year to mental health related absence. Globally the cost of depression and anxiety disorders costs US$1 trillion each year.

Part of the reason why poor mental health is such a problem is that it is an area of health that is so often misunderstood. People do not know how to recognise the early signs of mental health issues or have the confidence to seek help.

It is not so long ago that a similar issue existed with male specific cancers like prostrate and testicular cancer. Early diagnosis and subsequent successful treatment is increasing are as a result of campaigns like Movember and the check-em out campaign which featured pop star Robbie Williams. Learning lessons from these campaigns will help to break down the stigma associated with mental health and get people to discuss it. Just as with many physical illnesses early diagnosis and intervention can help slow down or stop a mental health problem and lead to faster recovery.

At the Annual Meeting we will be learning from personal and organisational experience how to spot the common signs and symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression and how to help each other – and yourselves.

As HR professionals we have an important role to play in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and reducing the discrimination the sufferers encounter. Regardless of the issue that HR professionals have to deal with their role is more successful when they can demonstrate a clear business benefit from the activities involved in solving the issue. Now the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank (WB) have released research which demonstrates that every US$ 1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US$ 4 in better health and ability to work.

The WHO-led study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, provides a global estimate, for the first time, of both the health and economic benefits of investing in treatment of the most common forms of mental illness. The study, provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health services in countries of all income levels.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said, “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too.”

Dr Chan called for new ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”
Depression and anxiety are increasing.

Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden. Humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict add further to the need for scale-up of treatment options. WHO estimates that, during periods of heighten activity, like meeting deadlines, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.

Returns on investment in treatment far outweigh the costs

The new study calculated treatment costs and health outcomes for the fifteen years from 2016-2030.

The estimated costs of scaling up treatment, primarily psychosocial counselling and anti-depressant medication, amounted to US$ 147 billion. Yet the returns far outweigh the costs. A five percent improvement in labour force participation and productivity is valued at US$ 399 billion, and improved health adds another US$ 310 billion in returns.

However, current investment in mental health services is far lower than what is needed. According to WHO’s Mental Health Atlas 2014 survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.

Figures from the Nuffield Trust indicate that in England the NHS spend around £12billion a year on mental health, including dementia. It is the biggest area of NHS spending, around double the amount spent on cancers and tumours.

Whilst appearing happy is no guarantee that someone does not have a mental health issue the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have identified what the happiest person in the UK might look like.

“Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “This is not just a public health issue—it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”

The World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund want to see mental health at the centre of the health and development agenda with increases in funding for mental health.

Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University and an expert on global mental health, said, “Mental health needs to be a global humanitarian and development priority—and a priority in every country. We need to provide treatment, now, to those who need it most, and in the communities where they live. Until we do, mental illness will continue to eclipse the potential of people and businesses.”

Use this link to book your place at this event.

Posted in CIPD, Conferences, Health and Safety

March 25th, 2015 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward, volunteer Chair CIPD North Yorkshire branch and National Council Member today represented the CIPD at an event held at Headingley Stadium by Leeds City Council which aimed to raise awareness of the impact that domestic violence and abuse have on the community in the City.

Safer Leeds a division of Leeds City Council are developing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Quality Mark to provide small, medium and large businesses/employers with a framework to continuously improve the support available to employees affected by domestic violence and abuse.

Michael spoke at the event on the impact of domestic violence on employment and how as employers we can help to tackle an issue that impacts on health, wellbeing, absence and employee turnover in the workplace.

Drawing on his personal experience of working in HR roles in various parts of the world, and dealing with employees who were in abusive or violent relationships Michael explained what it is like to be the first person that a victim tells.

Stressing the importance of not assuming that victims are always women and perpetrators are not always men.

Michael described how he has worked with employees who were living in abusive and violent relationships with their married partners, cohabiting partners, same gender partners and with abusive teenage and adult children.

Leeds City Council are launching of a new multi-agency hub that will provide early intervention for all victims of domestic violence and abuse. The Council are continuing to deliver programmes of work to challenge the behaviour of those who are abusive in relationships in partnership with colleagues across the public sector.

The Council has launched a website Leeds Domestic Violence that provides easy access to information and services for victims, families, communities and agencies.

Posted in CIPD, Domestic Violence, Health and Safety

April 18th, 2011 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward joined Steve Bailey who was standing in for regular host Elly Fiorentini on the BBC Radio York Drive Show this evening to discuss the forthcoming International Workers Memorial Day on 28th April 2011.

Mr Millward explained that International Workers’ Memorial Day started in Canada, and that the date was chosen because it was the day that the American equivalent of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was introduced.

International Workers’ Memorial Day is now officially recognised by the Government of the United Kingdom and official and unofficial ceremonies to mark the day take place all over the country.

Mr Millward explained that it is the first responsibility of every employer to operate safely; if you can’t do that then you shouldn’t be in business.

In North Yorkshire during the 2009/2010 year three people were killed at work in North Yorkshire and 430 suffered a major injury slightly more than the previous year. That is 8 people a week, and these figures explained Mr Millward which are the most recent available do not include the people who die after having to give up work because of an work place accident or work related illness.

Much is made in the media of the compensation that is paid to people who have accidents at work; £200,000 for slipping on a grape is one case that has received recent publicity. But speak to the people who receive these compensation payments and all of them would gladly return every penny if they could be free from pain and return to work.

These payments are made by insurance companies using money paid by employers in insurance premiums. So if your employees have an accident that results in a major injury or death whilst at work, and work can be anywhere, a factory, farm, office, warehouse, or vehicle and even their home if they are working from home, your employers’ liability insurance premium is going to go up next year.

Employers advised Mr Millward need to take steps to ensure that they and their employees understand the risks that they face at work; then where possible remove those risks so that they do not become hazards. If it is not possible to remove the risk it and the potential for it to become a hazard should be minimised. When the risk or hazard is unavoidable employees need to be trained in how to behave around the hazard and risk so that they can remain safe.

No win no fee claims have made it possible for more people to take action against their employers when they have accidents and this again leads to increased insurance premiums.

But compensation claims are just the start of the expense. The costs of the disruption caused by an accident, the potential police investigation and prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive can prove to be many times more costly.

Yet just as no claims bonuses can reduce your car insurance premium there are moves in the insurance industry to rewards those employers who manage hazards and risks effectively and have fewer workplace accidents and consequent claims from their employees.

Mr Millward encouraged all employers regardless of size to use International Workers’ Memorial Day as a way of raising awareness of work place safety and initiate training and education programmes that will help their employees understand the risks they face at work.

As well as educating their employees it is also important that breeches of safety rules are treated seriously by employers and the strictest sanctions taken against perpetrators.

The value of first aiders was highlighted by last week’s First Aid Awareness Week, but surprisingly the majority people don’t know the correct way to treat something as simple as a nose bleed.

Having people at work who know how to act quickly can mean the difference between life and death. It costs surprisingly little to be trained.

Posted in Health and Safety