Workplace health promotion

Society, employers and individuals are winners


The significant loss in productivity due to the impact of non-communicable diseases on workers' health has a negative impact on economic growth and is a burden on society. National economies and public and private enterprises with better occupational safety and health standards tend to be more successful. To strengthen the role of social security institutions in supporting the application and enforcement of such standards, the ISSA Guidelines on Workplace Health Promotion aim to make a meaningful difference to workplace health.
Working safely and safeguarding health and well-being provide employers with direct business benefits. For their part, social security institutions play a major role in influencing and facilitating the return to work after injury or illness. Together, these actions benefit individuals (with fewer and less severe health problems/faster improvements in health and re-established well-being) and employers (with fewer absences in the workplace) and insurers (with cost savings).

The European Network for Workplace Health Promotion defines workplace health promotion as "the combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and well-being of people at work". A positive feature of workplace health promotion is the fact that many groups contribute to it and that it does not lie in the domain of one group alone. Cognizant of this reality, the ISSA has developed the ISSA Guidelines on Workplace Health Promotion.

Workplace health programme components and strategies include:

  • Health education classes;
  • Access to local fitness facilities;
  • Company policies that promote healthy behaviours, such as a tobacco-free campus policy;
  • Employee health insurance coverage for appropriate preventive screenings;
  • A healthy work environment created through actions such as making healthy foods available and accessible through vending machines or cafeterias;
  • A work environment free of recognized health and safety threats, with a means to identify and address new problems as they arise.
Workplace health promotion is closely linked to and overlaps return-to-work programmes based on the idea of proactive interventions and job retention.


What do the ISSA Guidelines on Workplace Health Promotion cover?

The guidelines provide social security institutions with a framework for action: a "how to" manual for developing and implementing sustainable, needs-based workplace health promotion programmes in client organizations, be they private or public sector enterprises, agencies or organizations.
Guidance focuses on two key areas:
  • Social security institutions as facilitators of good practice in their client organizations and the steps involved in carrying out that role;
  • Social security institutions as models and the actions needed to achieve this status.
The ISSA Guidelines on Workplace Health Promotion should be used in conjunction with the
ISSA Guidelines on Return to Work and Reintegration and the ISSA Guidelines on Prevention of Occupational Risks, and be understood as a holistic tool for senior management in social security institutions.


Actors in workplace health promotion

Ensuring the health and well-being of its employees is the responsibility of the employer. This principle is supported by most national occupational safety and health legislation.
It is widely recognized that the most successful workplace health programmes at a company level are based on strong senior management commitment. The involvement of senior management is imperative if employees are to appreciate and recognize that their employer is committed to protecting and promoting the health and well-being of the workforce.
Furthermore, workplace health promotion programmes require the engagement and participation of workers and should be undertaken in partnership with all employees at all levels and across the organization.
Finally, the planning, development and implementation of workplace health promotion also requires the driving force of a team (or person) to actively ensure the delivery of workplace health promotion within the company.

Social security institutions as actors

In most cases, social security institutions are not legally required to become involved in workplace health promotion. However, there are a number of compelling reasons to do so, including the following.
Ethics: Social security institutions have a leadership role in preventing accidents and ill health and promoting well-being through the workplace.
Social benefits and financial sustainability: Promoting well-being in the workplace facilitates better health, safer work and worker retention. This ensures a sustainable funding source for rehabilitation and compensation while reducing the need for expensive rehabilitation measures and compensation.
Equity: Reducing health inequalities benefits a wide range of stakeholders, including governments, health systems, social security systems, employers and individuals.
When social security institutions are actors in workplace health promotion, their role involves actively encouraging and supporting employers who set up workplace health promotion programmes in their companies. This support can also include investing time and resources in such developments. The role of social security institutions in supporting and enabling workplace health promotion can be based on a legal and/or voluntary mandate.
In many countries, workers' compensation boards insure employees against the loss of income resulting from accidents at work and/or occupational diseases. Often the workers' compensation boards are part of social security funds covering multiple branches of social security, such as unemployment, pension, health, or family benefits, in addition to work injuries.
Health insurance schemes are also concerned with health promotion and workplace health promotion in particular. The organization of these health insurance schemes is highly dependent on the national context. In many cases, the responsibility for compensating a worker who is in ill health/absent from work often is shared by the employer and the health insurance fund. This also applies to the provisions applying to disability and pension funds.

Further information on the guidelines

The guidance that follows is organized in three parts:
Part A, Basic Conditions for Workplace Health Promotion (Guidelines 1–10), deals with the structural issues to be addressed so that social security institutions can encourage and enable their clients – public and private sector enterprises and organizations – to develop comprehensive approaches to workplace health promotion.
Part B, Needs Assessment and Planning (Guidelines 11–18), covers resources and processes for assessment and consensus building.
Part C, Workplace Health Promotion Activities and Services (Guidelines 19–29), describes the specific interventions and measures that social security institutions can take to enable workplaces to develop and implement workplace health promotion programmes.

The ISSA Centre for Excellence, launched at the World Social Security Forum in Doha in 2013, fosters the transfer of knowledge among ISSA member organizations to achieve administrative excellence. A central role of the Centre for Excellence is to promote the use of ISSA Guidelines on Social Security Administration, internationally-recognized professional standards in social security administration. By defining the benchmark for improvement, ISSA Guidelines support ISSA member organizations to set objectives for achieving – and maintaining – administrative excellence.