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New Developments in the Delivery of Occupational Health Services to Small Firms



Funding body

British Academy-Leverhume Trust


Principal investigator: Dr Raffaella Valsecchi
Co-investigator: Prof Neil Anderson

Project description

The proposed research highlights recent attempts to create a different understanding of occupational health (OH) by investigating a new multi-channel advice line created to support small medium sized entreprises (SMEs). The need to provide alternative ways of delivery of OH services across small businesses is important for two main reasons. First, the most common barrier to employers investing in the health and well-being of their employees is the lack of appropriate information advice. Second, managers in small business do not invest in occupational health service because they cannot see a convincing business case. 
The curent research has investicated wether the use of this OH advice line has improved sickness absence managemen and other aspects of health at work.
This research found out that this service helped the employers to better manage health at work, particularly sickness absence and to prevent it. As this research data suggested, the vast majority of the managers who have used this OH service took some actions. The immediate actions mainly reflected good practices of absence management (e.g. better communication with the employee, arranging a return-to-work plan, changes of roles and work conditions of the employees, contact OH providers).

Most importantly, many managers, by reflecting on the specific immediate organisational problem, introduced new policies and training (e.g. new sickness absences policies, new risk assessment policies, new stress awareness training and well-being programmes). The main point to highlight is that the use of this OH service, increased the awareness of the importance of health and well-being of the employees among the managers, so that these managers/employers are now prepared to make 

investments on OH matters (e.g. introduce new trainings and paying for OH experts) and to introduce new policies and procedures aimed at preventing bad health at work. Managers first use the Health for Work Adviceline as a reaction to a specific problem, but then having acquired more OH knowledge, they acted to prevent a future OH issue at work.

Interviews and surveys with employees who have used this service, also demonstrated that many managers have no knowledge about health and well-being at work, thus further policy interventions need to be implemented.

mpact Statement:

This current research has increased the awareness of health and well-being at work.This study was part of a knowledge transfer leave, thus through this research, we have directly collaborated with managerial staff of the Health for work Adviceline and helped them to develop this service further.
Moreover each year, an occupational health professional, member of this service, offers a guest speaker lecture to our MSc HRM-ER students. This initiative has helped these students, our future HRM managers, to be more knowledgeable about health and well-being at work.