The National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence is calling on employers to recognise the value of a healthy workplace, as figures show an estimated 27 million working days are lost because of work-related illness at a cost to society of some £13 billion a year.

In new public health guidelines out today, the Institute is offering advice on how to develop the culture of an organisation to create a positive environment, which includes basic principles such as ensuring staff work reasonable hours, take regular breaks and feel appreciated.

Other recommendations include encouraging new ideas and exploring new ways of doing things and opportunities to learn, as well as a flexible approach to work scheduling to give employees more control and flexibility over their time.

“Each year more than a million working people in the UK experience a work-related illness,” said Gillian Leng, NICE Deputy Chief Executive and Health and Social Care Director, but she stressed that it is not just the physical hazards of work that damage people’s health. “Other factors such as lack of control over work, conflicts, and discriminatory practices can also have an effect”.

Commenting on NICE’s guideline, Paul Lincoln, Chief Executive of the UK Health Forum and Chair of the Public Health Advisory Committee, said the evidence is clear - “promoting a culture that improves the health and wellbeing of employees is good management and is key to being a more productive, healthy and thus more sustainable organisation”.