Employers should contribute to an NHS national occupational health service to tackle absenteeism and ill health, according to a report by health professionals.

The recommendations by a group led by Professor Mansel Aylward, chairman of the Wales Centre for Health, have been published by Welsh health minister Edwina Hart.

The One Wales coalition agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru has pledged to look at the possibility of a statutory occupational health service.

The deal follows a 2006 Assembly Government study showing that most public sector organisations offer access to occupational health services, compared with only 17 per cent in the private sector. Around 200,000 people are on incapacity benefit.

Detailed proposals will now be considered by another group led by Professor Aylward and including representatives of employees and employers.

He says: “Occupational health aims to maximise the health gains of being in work, ensure a safe environment for work and remove barriers to allow people to realise their potential at work.

“There is no one solution that will meet the occupational health support needs of everyone. Flexibility is the key to delivery.”