How can the Healthy Working Lives Tackle Health Inequalities in Aberdeenshire?

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What is Healthy Working Lives? work life balance

The Healthy Working Lives Team within NHS Grampian works with approximately 150 companies throughout the North East, to facilitate a planned and integrated approach to improving the health, safety and well-being of their employees.  Healthy Working Lives is a mature health improvement programme which has been operational since 2006; the programme is delivered locally in every NHS board area and is governed by a National Team overseen by Health Scotland.

The programme is targeted to all working aged adults; from 16 yrs to retirement age. National census data (2011) reveals unemployment in Grampian is around 3% for those aged 16 – 74, making the workplace an excellent setting to tackle health inequalities. A key aim for Healthy Working Lives is to work closely with small to medium enterprise companies. Healthy Working Lives in Grampian has been predominately working with businesses mapped to the ‘mining and quarrying’ sector – known to include oil and gas operators and service companies. Oil and Gas related organisations account for approximately 47% of team caseload. Pay scales within this industry are however known to be generally above the national average.

It has been identified that low pay is a particular issue in rural Scotland. Low pay is defined as pay rates below the living wage currently £7.85 per hour.   (Healthy Working Lives, 2013)  Low pay is a key contributor to poverty, living in poverty can impact access to services, life expectancy and general health and well being at both an individual and a community level.

Grampian includes some of the most deprived areas in Scotland.  Aberdeenshire is a predominantly rural area in the north east of Scotland and has traditionally been economically dependent upon the primary sector (agriculture, fishing, and forestry).  Over 11,000 people in Aberdeenshire are estimated to be employed in this sector and related processing industries (2011 Census, Aberdeenshire Profile 2015).

Rural Aberdeenshire is perhaps best known for its livestock sector, finishing (the process of fattening calves prior to slaughter) over one quarter of Scotland’s beef herd (Aberdeenshire Council 2015). Aberdeenshire’s coastal towns are also recognised as Scotland’s foremost fishing areas. Approximately 50% of all fish landed into Scotland in 2014 were landed in the coastal towns of Aberdeenshire. The towns with the highest percentage of their local employment directly provided by the fisheries sector are Fraserburgh (29%) and Peterhead (14%).

The prevalence of low pay is highest amongst workers in lower and middle skilled occupations (occupations associated with the primary sector) and is much more prevalent in the private sector (Scottish Government 2015).

To support the reduction of inequalities in Aberdeenshire, NHS Grampian HWL is focussing on business sectors which in the past have not engaged with HWL and are likely to have a workforce on low pay. Two sectors that HWL is in the process of targeting are agriculture and fish processing in Aberdeenshire. Within Aberdeenshire, other high areas of employment include the wholesale and retail trade and human health and social work activities (Allerton & Leighton-Beck NHSG 2015).

How can the Healthy Working Lives reach the maximum number organisations with low-paid workers who have not engaged with HWL previously within Aberdeenshire?

  • Targeting employers

The Healthy Working Lives Team would benefit from community planning partner input to sign post the team to specific employers where it is known low-pay is evident.

  • Tapping into local knowledge & expertise

More collaborative working with community planning partners and other key stakeholders is essential for Healthy Working Lives to better understand the health needs of the population living and working across Grampian.

  • Identifying additional opportunities to raise HWL awareness.

In order to streamline resources and more effectively tackle health inequalities in the workplace, the Healthy Working Lives Team would benefit from the opportunity to raise and highlight the business case for employee health and well-being with the right employers and supporting organisations.

To reduce health inequalities, collaboration is required across a broad spectrum of policy areas, involving a wide range of organisations.  The local Healthy Working Lives team within NHS Grampian have relevant expertise, skill and resources to target and support employers in improving the health, safety and well-being of their employees.

Investing in positive health outcomes for the workforce will contribute to the reduction of health Inequalities.

The success in reducing health inequalities and improving and protecting health and wellbeing relies on multi-agency efforts to improve; policies, employment, education, access and the quality of local services.
The Scottish Government requires Community Planning Partnerships to work together to address inequalities.

Interested? To find out more, or to make your voice heard contact Andrea Gilmartin at

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