The public sector is to be the focus of a new campaign to encourage healthy workplace policies.
The campaign is being prepared by Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, and will be driven by the Healthy Ireland initiative, which aims to improve the country’s physical and mental health.
As part of the campaign, employers across the public sector will be required to develop healthy workplace policies. This is also the requirement of the proposed Health and Wellbeing (Workplace Wellbeing) Bill, which was signed off at Cabinet recently.
“We are putting this on a statutory basis to send a clear message that we mean business in improving the nation’s health,” said the Minister. “A similar approach was taken with health and safety statements years ago which have helped to reduce dramatically the rates of workplace injuries and deaths.”
These policies will vary from workplace to workplace and employers and employees will be able to pick the initiatives they want to pursue. Examples suggested by the Department of Health include: switching to healthier ways of travelling to and from work; setting up walking, running or other activity and exercise groups; healthy eating options in staff canteens; smoking cessation programmes and making smoke free zones on campuses; and support for positive mental health and wellbeing by encouraging employees to deal with stress, personal difficulties and to seek help when necessary.
“This has the potential to make a huge difference to the nation’s health as more than 288,000 people work in the public sector, comprising 15pc of the total Irish workforce,” said the Minister.
“There is a big role for the private sector here as well. Many private companies have led the way with their own workplace policies on car sharing or fitness clubs. We want to learn from them about what has worked. There will also be opportunities for companies which haven’t developed their own policies just yet. That’s why we are setting up new ways to engage with both public and private sector employers to promote healthy workplaces.”