A LEADING voice on health in the workplace has told Suffolk business leaders that having healthier staff is key to success in the current economic environment.

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Professor Dame Carol Black, who is an adviser to the Department of Health and the author of “Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence”, which Parliament debated in 2011, spoke with more than 90 members of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce at Trinity Park, Ipswich.

“The primary reason for looking so strategically at health in the workplace is that. if managed correctly, the potential exists to enhance productivity across any business,” Dame Carol said.

“Having unhealthy staff is not in the interest of anyone’s business and joined up initiatives to address this can make a real and lasting difference.”

Dame Carol Black, who has also worked alongside the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, on the Government’s plans to improve health in the workplace, shared figures showing that, across the UK, employers spend more than £9billion every year on sick pay and associated costs. Physically active employees take 27% fewer days of sick from work every year, she added.

“Those figures show that there is no doubt that healthier businesses do better than their unhealthier competitors,” Dame Carol continued. “Our research also shows how recognising important indicators can help business owner’s deal with problems as they arise.”

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “It was good to have such an authoritative voice as Dame Carol with us and to hear her experiences of what more needs to be done to make the workplace healthier.

“Her challenging message that it costs nothing to go for a lunchtime walk means that we all can do a bit more to make our places of work healthier, fitter and therefore more profitable.

“The role of managers and leaders was also importantly promoted by Dame Carol,” he added.

“Those in responsible positions need to take more of a lead and is one of the reasons why in 2012, health in the workplace has been a themed year for our work.”

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