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Civil servants face health drive to reduce sick leave

THE country's 290,000 civil servants will asked to follow new guidelines surrounding eating, drinking and smoking while in the workplace.

Measures being introduced by Health Minister Leo Varadkar are aimed at making the civil service a healthier place to work and at reducing levels of sick leave.

Public sector bosses are to be asked to implement new policies which will promote healthy eating during the working day as well as encouraging staff to exercise.

The proposed bill, which has been signed off by Cabinet, sets out a series of new options available to public sector chiefs to improve the well-being of staff.

These include:

l Promoting 'Active Travel' - switching to smarter ways of travelling to and during work, by foot, by bike, by public transport or through car sharing.

l Setting up walking, running or other activity and exercise groups.

l Healthy eating options in staff canteens.

l Smoking cessation programmes and making campuses smoke free zones.

l Supporting positive mental health by encouraging employees to deal with stress, personal difficulties and to seek help when necessary.


The initiative is being put on a statutory footing in the public sector, while a voluntary initiative is being introduced in the private sector.

Several firms including Bank of Ireland and Grant Thornton have already signed up to such a scheme.

This is Minister Varadkar's third such initiative in recent weeks, following Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol and calorie counts for menus.

"It's well-established that a healthy workforce is a happier one with low levels of sick leave and greater productivity," Mr Varadkar said.

"So this approach makes pure business sense too for the public and private sectors.

"We are putting this on a statutory basis to send a clear message that we mean business in improving the nation's health.

"A similar approach was taken with health and safety statements years ago which have helped to reduce dramatically the rates of workplace injuries and deaths," he added.

The scheme is being steered by the Healthy Ireland initiative which aims to improve the nation's health.