The Welsh Government has launched a new scheme to help employees of SMEs and the self-employed to access health and wellbeing support.
The In-Work Support Service will provide SMEs, the self-employed and those working in the third sector in Wales with free access to therapeutic support for their physical and mental wellbeing. The service builds on a previously European-funded service and will support up to 7,000 people as it operates across the whole of Wales for the first time.
The new scheme supports the aims of the Welsh Government’s Plan for Employability and Skills which was launched in 2022. The plan aims to reduce economic inactivity by preventing people from falling out of employment by creating healthy workplaces and providing support to enable people with long-term health conditions to return to work.
Physical health support offered through the scheme includes therapeutic support for common musculoskeletal conditions, chiropody, osteopathy, physiotherapy and podiatry. Mental health support offered will include counselling and stress management guidance.
SMEs in Wales have faced multiple challenges over recent years which could potentially impact on their wellbeing.
In Q1 of 2023, over three quarters of businesses in Wales reported that cashflow had remained the same or worsened, restricting investment plans for equipment and training. Over half of Welsh businesses stated that their organisation is currently operating below capacity and that they are under pressure to raise prices of their goods and services due to labour, raw material and utility costs. External factors like inflation also remain a concern.
Paul Butterworth, CEO of Chambers Wales South East, South West and Mid, said:
“From the pandemic and Brexit to high inflation and the cost of doing business crisis, businesses in Wales, including SMEs, have been under significant pressure in the last few years.
“All of these concerns can have a serious impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of employees and it is encouraging that this new scheme will provide opportunities for SMEs, self-employed workers and the third sector to access the health and wellbeing support they need. This will be particularly beneficial for those businesses who do not have occupational health services of their own.
“Prioritising and valuing wellbeing can lead to healthier, more engaged and productive workforces. In the entries for the Workplace Wellbeing Award for the recent Wales Business Awards, it was clear to see the progress and benefits that good wellbeing schemes and programmes can provide for employees and businesses.”