Speech by Minister Corcoran Kennedy at the launch of the Healthy Workplace Consultation

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Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen – a very good morning to you all.

I am delighted to be here to launch the public consultation on the Healthy Ireland Healthy Workplace Framework with my colleague Minister Pat Breen from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The development of the Healthy Workplace Framework is a priority action in Healthy Ireland aimed at assisting employers in both private and public sectors to provide a healthy workplace. Working in partnership with Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation reflects the core principles and ethos of Healthy Ireland.

Healthy Ireland is the National Framework to improve the Health and Wellbeing of the population of Ireland and it takes a ‘whole of Government’ and a ‘whole of society’ approach to addressing the determinants of health and supporting healthy lifestyles across the life course.

Healthy Ireland is about taking steps towards making Ireland a healthier and prosperous nation and this involves working with all sectors including businesses and employers to progress this agenda.

Since the launch of Healthy Ireland in 2013, a comprehensive range of policy initiatives have been published seeking to address the many challenges to our health and wellbeing. These include Tobacco Free Ireland and its related suite of legislation; our first ever National Sexual Health Strategy; our first ever National Physical Activity Plan; and A Healthy Weight for Ireland, the Obesity Policy and Action Plan.

There is ongoing work in the area of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Positive Ageing, as well as in the area of Alcohol through the Public Health Alcohol Bill. This Bill contains a package of measures aimed at reducing alcohol consumption in Ireland and bringing about a cultural shift in how we view and consume alcohol which will support employers and employees in managing the impacts that alcohol misuse can have in the workplace.

The achievement of the goals set out in Healthy Ireland depends on building robust partnerships across all sectors of society and by active engagement with other Government Departments. This cooperation between my Department and Jobs Enterprise and Innovation is a practical example of Healthy Ireland in action with the potential to impact on many individuals and their families.

We know work is good for our health and the workplace is recognised internationally as a priority setting for health promotion. It offers the opportunity to promote health to a large audience and, with almost two million people in employment in Ireland, this is over half the population. To address health and wellbeing in the workplace, a strategic approach is required to provide direction for organisations, as well as practical resources for implementation.

To oversee the development of this framework, a subgroup was established in 2015 under the auspices of the Healthy Ireland Cross Sectoral Group, with representatives from Government Departments as well as the Health and Safety Authority and the Health Service Executive. This group is jointly chaired by representatives from both Departments demonstrating a clear commitment to partnership working at a high level within Government.

The project plan for this framework has many components including reviewing the evidence, consulting with key stakeholders, developing resources and building capacity to support implementation.

Robust evidence is needed to underpin policy development and, to inform the framework, a review of the national and international literature in relation to workplace health and wellbeing is near completion. The consultation process commenced last year with initial engagement with Academic Sector, Government Departments, Professional Bodies and site visits to over twenty workplaces.

This initial engagement informed the second phase of the consultation. I am pleased to see a comprehensive plan in place with a number of regional meetings around the country and an online survey which will be open for six weeks.

One of the key challenges for workplaces is the implementation of healthy workplace initiatives. To build capacity, the two Departments provided seed funding to the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) to develop a Post Graduate Course on Healthy Workplaces which will be available from September 2017.

It is evident that we are taking a robust approach in the development of this framework and the representation here today, from both the public and private sector, is evidence of your interest and commitment to this agenda.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the Health and Wellbeing team in the Department of Health, the support from our partners in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the significant contribution from the Institute of Public Health who are assisting with the consultation process.

I would like to thank you all for taking the time to attend, in particular my colleague Minister Breen, and I look forward to the outcome of the consultation process. Finally, it gives me great pleasure to launch this event and the online consultation for the Healthy Workplace Framework.