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Call for health, safety and wellbeing to be at the heart of economic growth

A picture of the UK's Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
British Safety Council's Manifesto calls on the next Government to put health, safety and wellbeing at the heart of economic growth. Photograph: iStock/benedek

Ahead of the general election expected this year, the British Safety Council has published a new manifesto - ‘Manifesto on Health, Safety and Wellbeing’  - containing policies to support better productivity and growth, as well as ensure a healthier, safer, and happier workforce. 

The UK lost an estimated 32.5 million days to work-related ill-health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2022/2023, and sickness and illness are at a 10-year high, costing businesses and the economy up to £77.5 billion a year. Poor mental health is also estimated to cost UK taxpayers around £45 billion each year. 

Exactly 50 years on from the landmark Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), the British Safety Council is calling on all political parties and representatives to “commit to making the next 50 years the safest in our nation’s history”. 

Its ‘Manifesto on Health, Safety and Wellbeing’ sets out seven key calls across four policy areas: regulation; wellbeing; technology and the future of work; and skills. 

British Safety Council’s calls on a future UK Government include:

  • A dedicated Ministerial portfolio responsible for well-being, which would also be given cross-governmental responsibility for the development and implementation of a National Wellbeing Strategy

  • Support for companies that invest in new and developing technologies (including AR, VR, and AI) for the purposes of improving health, safety, and wellbeing standards in the workplace, enabling them to offset up to 5% annual investment

  • Health, safety, and wellbeing training required by law included in a new ‘Skills Tax Credit’ when reforms are made to skills-based education

  • Adequate funding for the Health and Safety Executive (including the Building Safety Regulator) and for local authorities who hold statutory duties for the regulation and inspection of health and safety. 

Commenting on the launch of the manifesto, Peter McGettrick, chairman of British Safety Council, said: “This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UK’s groundbreaking Health and Safety at Work Act, which put our country at the forefront of ensuring safer workplaces and helped us become a world leader in workplace health and safety. Ahead of the next General Election, we are calling on all political parties, party leaders, and those seeking election to commit to making the next 50 years the safest in our nation’s history. 

“This is about putting health, safety, and wellbeing at the heart of economic growth, to ensure the UK remains economically competitive the future. That will require everyone – from policymakers and political leaders to employers and staff – to commit to a future where economic growth and worker wellbeing actively support each other.” 

Mike Robinson, chief executive of the British Safety Council, added: “As part of our Manifesto, we are calling on the next Government to take a truly joined-up approach to health, safety, and wellbeing. That’s why we want to see a new Ministerial Portfolio with responsibility for wellbeing and a new National Wellbeing Strategy. We believe this would improve and support better health at work, unlock lost productivity, and grow the economy. 

“The world of work is changing, and we want companies that invest in new and developing technologies – like AR, VR, and AI – for the purposes of improving workplace health, safety, and wellbeing to be incentivised, as well as health and safety skills and training required by law supported by a tax credit. 

“We also want to see adequate resources allocated to those responsible for regulating health, safety, and wellbeing at work, especially the Health and Safety Executive, which despite the progress that’s been made in reducing fatalities and injuries at work has seen nearly 20% of its funding cut since 2010.” 

The British Safety Council’s ‘Health, Safety, and Wellbeing Manifesto 2024’ is available to download.