Published: 30/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5925 Page 4

Health Minister John Hutton has hinted that corporate responsibility for employees' health will make up part of the government's new strategy for public health, set to be revealed when it publishes its white paper next month.

Speaking at a conference fringe meeting organised by medical insurance company Standard Life Healthcare, Mr Hutton said the company's call for a national voluntary Investors in Health scheme is 'exactly the sort of thing government should be supporting, but for detail you'll have to wait for the white paper'.

The company is proposing the launch of a new award for companies demonstrating 'engagement with and promotion of preventative health measures for staff '.

Designed along similar lines as Investors in People, for investment in staff training and development, IIH status would demand that companies provide a healthy working environment 'which provides information about good habits in diet, exercise, sleep and stress as well as support, advice and opportunities to change behaviour'. This might include provision of after-work fitness classes and healthy menus in staff restaurants.

The proposals are based on the insurer's experience with implementing this type of programme for its staff, which it claims has delivered a return on investment, including a 25.5 per cent reduction in staff turnover.