Businesses can reduce deepening health inequalities in the UK by providing good quality work and changing the nature of ‘hierarchical and disempowering’ jobs, the latest Marmot review has argued.
Excessive working hours are linked to premature deaths from stroke and heart disease, yet approximately one in eight workers do more than 48hrs a week in the UK, rising to one in six in London.
At the same time, poor working conditions are also impacting on productivity. It has been estimated that 30 per cent of the shortfall in productivity in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ compared with the rest of England is due to ill health.
The research is published in The Business of Health Equity: The Marmot Review for Industry, which sets out a roadmap for business in levelling up.
Providing workers with flexibility and control over tasks is a key recommendation to help people live healthier and longer lives. Work which places high demands on the worker while giving them little control over tasks has been shown to play a key part in generating inequalities in health and higher rates of disease among workers affected.
Consultative participation and the ability to engage with decisions at work are indicators of healthy employment practices. Professor Marmot’s report recommends that all businesses seek to improve employee engagement and that larger companies must commit to worker representation on the corporate board.
The review’s findings go further than addressing workforce health to consider the profound ways in which the actions of businesses influence the social determinants of health. For example, how they support the health of customers through products and services they provide, or the health of individuals in communities through their procurement, and supply networks.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of University College London’s Institute of Health Equity said: “Business can be part of the problem of health inequalities. More positively, it can be part of the solution and has a key part to play in improving these social conditions that affect health and health equity: in conditions of work and employment; in goods and services; and in impact on the wider society and environment.”
The report was published by UCL’s IHE in partnership with Legal & General as part of a four-year project to further the role of business in reducing inequalities in health in the UK. It is expected to lead to specific commitments from Legal & General and from other businesses operating in the UK.
Sir Nigel Wilson, CEO, of Legal & General added: "Reducing health inequalities is a key part of levelling up: literally a matter of life and death. Business can be a force for good in society if we work to identify areas where we can sustainably and positively impact people’s lives.
“Businesses and ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) investors are proving key to reducing carbon emissions. ESG’s “E” is working, but the “S” is further behind. Post-COVID, there is a strong case to consider health and health inequality as crucial to the “S” of ESG - explicitly calling out health within a new “ESHG” framework."
The Business of Health Equity: The Marmot Review for Industry - read the report here
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