Both staff and employers benefit from occupational health, i.e. a healthy work environment. Some measures are legally required, while others are voluntary. Here is a summary of employers’ obligations and the options they can make use of.
At a glance
- Occupational health is a management task.
- Suitable measures can result in lower sickness levels and better long-term performance.
- Various measures come under the umbrella term “occupational health management” (betriebliches Gesundheitsmanagement, in short BGM).
- Employers have a legal duty to take occupational safety and workplace integration management (betriebliches Eingliederungsmanagement, abbreviated BEM) measures.
- Above and beyond occupational safety, employers can offer occupational health promotion (betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung – BGF) measures on a voluntary basis.
Why is occupational health such an important subject?
Companies cannot be successful without efficient staff. Work quality depends not only on the employees’ training and individual skills, but also on their health.
Companies that demand too much from their staff over the long term and do not actively promote occupational health are risking a lot: potential consequences include more sickness with corresponding costs, poor motivation, a bad working environment, and problems in recruiting and retaining staff.
So occupational health is equally important to both employers and staff. In addition, because of demographic change more and more people are going to be working for longer. Healthy work environments are important for that reason, too. So the state helps companies to maintain and improve occupational health.
Measures that safeguard and promote occupational health come under the umbrella term “occupational health management” (BGM). The term makes it clear that it is a management task. To put it another way: occupational health is the bosses’ responsibility.
Important: Occupational health management is based on three key pillars which are anchored in law: occupational safety, workplace integration management (BEM), and occupational health promotion (BGF).
Which measures are obligatory for employers?
Employers must follow the law on occupational safety. Companies are well-advised to regularly check whether they are taking all the occupational safety measures that the law prescribes to ensure that their staff are safe and healthy. Firstly because in this way they will protect their staff’s health. And secondly because otherwise they will run unnecessary legal risks.
They also have to comply with rules on workplace integration management (BEM): these measures are obligatory for all companies, no matter what their size, if an employee is unable to work for more than 42 days within 12 months. The workplace integration management rules also apply to any lengthier inability to work and to many back-to-back, short-term illnesses.
The BMAS (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales / Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs) provides detailed information about occupational safety and company integration management:
What opportunities are offered by promoting occupational health?
Occupational health promotion (BGF) is something the employer does voluntarily, ideally in addition to occupational safety measures. By law, health insurance providers must assist companies with occupational health promotion services.
Companies that want to get involved with occupational health promotion can get free advice from the health insurance providers’ BGF coordination centers, no matter what the company size or sector.
To the BGF-Koordinierungsstelle (BGF coordination center) website
The health insurance providers help companies to provide better occupational health. Companies can apply for this support. The health insurance provider then checks the company’s measures to ensure that they comply with the GKV (statutory health insurance) “Prevention” quality criteria.
There is a broad range of potential measures: these include health-promoting work design, health-promoting workstyle and lifestyle, and inter-company networking and advice. So offerings that encourage staff to get moving, help with nutrition issues, or prevent addiction are all possible. Under occupational health promotion, companies can set up project management schemes, workgroups, or internal PR work on health issues.
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What points of contact are there for occupational health?
Companies that want to provide better occupational health can get advice and support from various places. Potential contacts are, firstly, social insurance agencies, i.e. health and accident insurance providers.
Secondly, there are many private companies and service providers who have specialized in occupational health. These include, for example, occupational health promotion institutions, health centers, nutrition advisers, and company fitness providers.
Where can I get independent information on occupational health?
Companies can do far more on occupational health than just complying with laws and regulations. The “Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit” (INQA) (New Work Quality Initiative) website is a good starting point for finding out about options and ideas. The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs launched it in 2002.
Politicians, employers’ associations, chambers of commerce, and trade unions together run the INQA. The initiative is open to anyone who wants to connect with the initiative’s players, or who wants to make use of the offerings in their work environment. It bundles expertise and passes the knowledge on to companies, administrative bodies and their staff in a practical form. It advises on, networks and supports digitization and cultural change processes.
To the “Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit” (INQA) website
The “psyGA” project is another INQA offering which provides good information specifically on issues relating to mental health in the workplace.
There is more on this on the website psyga.info
The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs also provides detailed information on this subject.
- Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung. Aufgerufen am 07.05.2020.
- Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales. Was ist Arbeitsschutz? Aufgerufen am 07.05.2020.
- Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales. Betriebliches Eingliederungsmanagement. Aufgerufen am 07.05.2020.
- Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales. Gesundheit am Arbeitsplatz. Aufgerufen am 07.05.2020.
- BKK Dachverband e.V. BGF-Koordinierungsstellen. Aufgerufen am 07.05.2020.
- Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. Ratgeber zur Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung. Aufgerufen am 07.05.2020.
- Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. Unternehmen unternehmen Gesundheit. Aufgerufen am 06.05.2020.
- Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales. Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit (INQA). Aufgerufen am 06.05.2020.
- BKK Dachverband e.V. psyGA. Aufgerufen am 06.05.2020.