Tuesday 26 October 2010

Health, wealth and happiness

A new Fabian report published today says that in order to make progress on tackling stubborn health inequalities, the Government must bring the battle to the heart of its work programme.

Building on Sir Michael Marmot's report published earlier this year, and drawing on evidence that health inequalities are a function of wider wage and wealth inequality, authors Howard Stoate - a GP and former Labour MP for Dartford - and Bryan Jones show in 'Work, the Grand Cure' how a "renewed focus on job quality across the whole of the employment spectrum could help us make a significant dent in health inequalities in this country".

They say that even in austere times, a creative government could harness the long term social and economic benefits of a happier and healthier workforce. They offer the coalition a series of policy recommendations, including:

* A well-enforced employment strategy led by a single agency that encompasses everything from paid holiday entitlement and statutory sick pay to the pay and conditions of part-time agency workers relative to those of permanent full-time employees. Such an agency would have more teeth and more impact than the hotchpotch of agencies and strategies that we have now.

* A new ‘National Employment Rights and Innovation Office’, capable both of tackling recalcitrant employers and also of providing a comprehensive package of support and encouragement to firms that have been slow to adopt the latest statutory requirements and best practice ideas.

* A free public transport ‘happy hour’ for instance every Monday between 10 and 11am on all local and commuter bus, train, tube and tram services.

* A body that could provide employee-owned enterprises with advice and practical support. This new body should also offer grants, preferential loans or subsidies to help pay for the financial and legal support required when an employee group tries to bid for their company.

* A package of fiscal incentives to employers who are prepared to release a fixed percentage of employees from each rung of their pay scale for a specified period of voluntary work each year. As well as appealing to employers that have previously given little thought to volunteering, it would help to strengthen existing volunteering schemes that employers have already brought in.

* A new coalition Green Paper on commuting and the extended economy setting out the long-term economic, social, environmental and health-related benefits that would flow from a cut in commuting.

* Fiscal incentives or grants aimed at encouraging employers to allow more of their staff to work from home at least one day a week on a regular basis.

* Compel every employer to release details of the total salary and benefit package that every post in their organisation attracts. The information should be freely available on their websites and should also be fed into a central, publicly provided, database that anyone can access.

* A ‘good work’ accreditation that measures an employers’ commitment to enhancing employees’ control over their work, to stamping out monotony within the workplace, and to involving all employees in an organisation’s decision-making process.

Read more about the pamphlet and how to get hold of it on the Fabian website here, and let us know your thoughts about its conclusions and recommendations.

No comments: