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11 June 2024

Manufacturing Spends More on Wellbeing as Mental Health Issues Drive Sickness Absence

Mental health issues are the main driver in sickness absence across manufacturing companies.

Research from Make UK shows that industry is investing in workforce wellbeing, with nearly half increasing spending despite difficult economic conditions.

Its latest survey, A Healthier Manufacturing Workforce – wellbeing and work in UK manufacturing, reveals that 40% of employers identify mental health as the main cause of long-term absence in their business. As a result, more emphasis than ever has been placed on employer investment, with workplace adjustments, access to counselling or other mental health support and health and wellbeing promotion top of the priority list.

Make UK represents 20,000 companies of all sizes, from start-ups to multinationals, across engineering, manufacturing, technology and the wider industrial sector.

Over the last year, manufacturers have maintained their health and wellbeing commitment, with spend remaining consistently high. Companies have largely increased their level of investment (48.6%) or kept it at the same level (45.7%) in spite of difficult economic conditions.

Keeping the workforce safe continues to be of critical importance, with nearly half of companies (44.8%) investing in safety display screens, 37.4% increasing their spend on automation while 36% are using smart PPE equipment as part of their new health and safety measures.

Manufacturers are also seeing the benefits of software and devices to monitor health and safety risks and performance (24.7%) and they are being increasingly successful in preventing issues and accidents from occurring.

Make UK says it is not just employers that are improving. Employee understanding of health and safety importance is increasing too, with more and more workers taking ownership of their own wellbeing by making use of all the incentives on offer (27.4%). It says employees are increasingly working together to look after each other and encouraging colleagues to deal with their own wellbeing and safety, demonstrating a cultural shift.

Health and wellbeing now takes up some 30% of company training budgets, with the issues and benefits firmly embedded at board level, says Make UK. Nearly half (40.8%) of manufacturers train their senior team in health and wellbeing issues, with over half of companies (53.4%) providing bespoke sessions aimed at embedding this thinking in company culture.

Make UK’s primary ask of Government is to extend the scope of tax benefits for businesses investing in occupational health and wellbeing.

Jamie Cater, Head of Employment and Skills policy at Make UK, said:

“Investment in workforce wellbeing is more than just a perk for employees – at a time when recruitment and retention still pose a challenge for many manufacturers, it is a critical part of improving productivity. Our research showing increasing levels of investment show that the sector understands the benefits of this but remains on a journey from a culture of simply managing sickness absence to one of actively preventing ill health through a focus on wellbeing.

“To avoid the risk of more people leaving work due to sickness, the Government needs to act by introducing a long-promised expansion of tax relief on health and wellbeing services.”


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