Cumbria Crack

Award recognises council’s work creating healthier workplace

SLDC staff members Gary Maddison and Jason Habbershon enjoying a lunchtime badminton game

South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has been recognised for promoting positive health messages in the workplace – efforts which include lunch-time badminton sessions for staff.

The authority has achieved a Bronze Award in the Better Health at Work scheme, which recognises the achievements of organisations in promoting healthy lifestyles and considering the health of their employees, and helps them move forward in a structured and supported way.

Businesses and organisations in South Lakeland are now being encouraged to take part in the scheme.

Work at SLDC to achieve the award over the past year included open badminton sessions for staff in the town hall and courses on ‘managing change and building personal resilience’.

A survey with staff at the start of the process identified three key priorities – physical activity, nutrition and mental health.

Other activities included:

  • Sharing advice on alcohol consumption and sugary drinks, and the Stoptober smoking campaign;
  • Delivering training on mental health and dementia awareness and suicide alertness;
  • Students from Kendal College providing beauty and relaxation treatments;
  • Street Scene staff taking part in an awareness session about sun protection;

SLDC also operates flexible working to promote a better work/life balance and alleviate stress, and mental health awareness training is available to all.

A Health and Wellbeing Week in May saw “Eating Better for Business” sessions and free leisure centre taster passes given out – and another week-long event is planned for February. Unison funded free fruit for staff at the H&W week and also the badminton kit and ping pong kit for the council’s depots.

To achieve the award, the council also had to show evidence of policies and procedures and how they were aligned to Health & Safety Executive stress management standards and evidence of social support mechanisms or advice available to address external pressures.

An example of this was the career break policy, where staff can apply to take from three months to a year off unpaid once every five years.

The council also had to show that written risk assessments were in place for the main workplace hazards, such as lone working, driving, noise and vibration and musculoskeletal disorder.

Rachel Earnshaw, public protection officer (health and wellbeing), who co-ordinated the work with support from staff health advocates, said: “Thank you very much to everyone that has contributed to the work of the health advocates, and for playing a part in this achievement.“

Simon Rowley, Assistant Director Neighbourhood Services, who was chairman of the Better Health At Work Award board, said: “Taking part in the Better Health at Work scheme has been a really positive move for South Lakeland District Council – both for staff individually and the council as a whole.

“The council was already doing a lot of the work required to qualify for this award but the scheme allowed us to move forward in a structured and supported way. Working towards the scheme enabled us to focus on what the council already did to make it a healthy place to work and embark on new initiatives to consolidate that. Our staff are to be congratulated for embracing the concept.

“Health and wellbeing is one of our council priorities and encouraging a healthy workforce has many benefits for any employer. I would encourage any business or organisation to consider taking part in the scheme.”

SLDC was supported throughout the process by Workplace Health Improvement Specialist Ken Gyles from TUC Northern.

He said: “The Better Health at work Award, coordinated by the Northern TUC, recognises the efforts of local employers in addressing health issues within the workplace. By engaging with their staff they deliver health initiatives within the workplace whilst working towards a criteria set down by the award.

“It has been a pleasure to support South Lakeland District Council and their health advocates along their journey in achieving the bronze award and I look forward to working alongside SLDC’s health advocates during progression to silver.”

Promoting a healthy workplace has considerable benefits for employers and can lead to decreased absenteeism, increased productivity and improved performance as well as enhancing an organisation’s reputation and standing with staff, stakeholders and the wider community.

Individuals benefit from increased access to health information and interventions where they wouldn’t normally receive them.

Leaders of businesses or organisations who would like to get involved should contact the North East Better Health at Work Award on 0191 227 5550 or by email at [email protected]

The award scheme is free, flexible and open to all employers in the North East and Cumbria, regardless of size, location or type of business.

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