Actively supporting young people at work to lead healthier lives – a new pledge for employers

This week we’re taking a look at health and the workplace. I was interested to read my cousin the Mental Elf’s blog, last week, on services to promote the mental health of university students, and to hear about a new move to support young people starting their first job to look after their health. The Health at Work Network, chaired by Dame Carol Black, Expert Adviser on health and well-being at work for the Department of Health, have announced a new pledge that all employers can sign up to – to better support young people lead healthier lives when they start their working career.

The Young People in the Workplace Pledge states that:

“We will make a commitment to young people at the start of their working lives. We will provide information and support to help them take personal responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. For example, we will promote the importance of exercise, eating well, and good mental health; and we will help those that drink to do so sensibly and those that smoke to stop.”

Sounds good to us here at the Lifestyle Elf. It recognises, of course, that the workplace is a great setting for communicating messages about health and wellbeing.

So why should employers sign up?

The hope is that young employees will adopt healthy behaviours which they will not only maintain throughout their but will model to friends, family and colleagues. Some of the other benefits mentioned are that healthy lifestyles help to keep people in work. Keeping people happy and healthy at work is likely to lead to improvements in the quality of work and so benefit the business.

How might the pledge be delivered?

Employers are encouraged to foster a culture that promotes healthy behaviours amongst younger employees and it is suggested that induction programmes tailored for young employees could be developed in ways that fit the organisation but could include, for example, advice on diet, alcohol, exercise, smoking, and information about mental health and positive relationships. Those who sign up will be asked to provide pledge delivery plans, which will be published on the website, along with annual updates.

Already signed up are Mars, dairy company Rodda’s, leading foodservice supplier 3663, contract caterer Bartlett Mitchell, the Department of Health, Mental Health First Aid England, Community Interest Company (MHFA) and fifteen local primary schools and sports clubs in the North East.

Poppy Jaman, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid England, Community Interest Company, commented:

We are going to work with a range of local partners to get people talking about young people’s mental health in a way that is positive and resilience building. This programme is a stepping stone towards creating a mentally healthy young population. It is imperative that we invest in the health of our young people, there is no health without mental health and this work is a sustainable regional approach to that end.

Jobs can contribute enormously to every day stress on our minds and bodies, but the culture of our workplaces and interventions within those settings can also change our health behaviours for the better, and this initiative sounds like a really positive move.

Link:

A call for organisations to better support young people starting their first job to look after their health. The Department of Health, Public Health Responsibility Deal. 21 February, 2013.

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Sarah Chapman

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My name is Sarah Chapman. I have worked on systematic reviews and other types of research in many areas of health for the past 17 years, for the Cochrane Collaboration and for several UK higher education institutions including the University of Oxford and the Royal College of Nursing Institute. I also have a background in nursing and in the study of the History of Medicine.

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