A Business Case for Occupational Health

A business case captures the reasoning for why you do something new in business.  Like a project or task. Business cases are drafted before starting something new or before changing something which is already working.

My managers have often asked me to write a business case to support my brilliant (in my mind) idea. How it will work, why we need to have it and, most importantly what it costs. The first time this happened to me I had no idea what a business case was, so had to go to find out.

Wikipedia defines a business case as:

Looking at the quantifiable and non-quantifiable characteristics of a proposed project.

There are many ways to do a business case, from the 100 page fully comprehensive model to the back of the envelope design.  I prefer the latter but rarely get away with producing that as an argument.

A Business Case

Is an elegant way of saying, let’s look at the pros and cons of this proposal.  Making sure you have the option of leaving things as they are, which is called the “Doing Nothing” option and looks at the risks of not changing.

The business case is a justification for spending company time and money on change.  This article looks at the main elements of a business case whether it’s a large public sector project or small manufacturing unit and anything in between.  It is a systematic way of considering all factors before going forward.

The Five Elements Of A Business Case

  1. Assumptions

    First, you need to look at the assumptions made regarding the need for OH, have you had a service before, do you have a contracted service already, how much will it cost?  What are models of delivery, such as, in-house, single contractor, national service provider?

    Also, the ability of managers, knowledge of health risks, types of workers, or what happens if you get sued or someone is injured, the need for medical surveillance, the time required for setting up the service and administer?

    Here is where you include factual information; however, there may be new issues, or things may be unpredictable. It’s best to acknowledge any possible risks, showing you have thought about the subject. And, in my experience, people love to throw in their perceived risks, just to catch you out – so think about, who you are presenting the business case to and what they are passionate about.  It’s also a good idea to mention best and worst case outcomes; particularly important when you’re dealing with people projects, rather than assets.

  2. Benefits

    Set out the benefits of having an occupational health service and link each benefit to a positive effect on the company, such as financial benefits, happier staff, being ethical, recruiting workers, reduced turnover and absence.

  3. Objectives

    Be clear on the objectives of having this new or enhanced occupational health service, if not clearly defined the goal may not be achieved because people don’t understand what you’re saying and how it can benefit the company financially.

  4. Fors and Against

    Although you are trying to sell your brilliant idea, you should point out what would happen if there is no financial commitment; this is a good place for looking at the negative aspects of doing nothing (leaving things as they are).

  5. Company Benefits

    Always link the benefits to company strategic goals wherever possible.  Read through the company brochures and website and pick out some relevant points.  If the company doesn’t have written strategic objectives, think about what the owner of the business or employer’s personal views are, or the market you are in, and align benefits to that.

    When I worked for a small food company, I linked the need for more staff to the wholesomeness of the food and workers need to have good hygiene, that way I did not compromise the quality of the products.

Recognised Benefits of Occupational Health Service Provision

The NHS already caters for health in the GB so why would you want to offer a private health service for your staff? There may be many reasons, legal moral, ethical, and financial – here is a list of some you could use to support your plan:

Other Tips for a Successful Business Case for Occupational Health

  1. Keep the size of the business case in proportion to the project. Don’t do a 20-page document on a low-cost project. Conversely, if it’s for ten years strategic planning and going to the board for funding approval maybe you need more than that envelope.
  2. Always provide links to further information, such as SEQOHS website, HSE pages on health surveillance, or NICE guidance for that issue
  3. Look at other business cases on the internet. Use the same terminology and style or use a company template if you have one.  Some procurement departments will write the case for you if you give them the information.

Under Threat of Outsourcing or Closure?

Use a business case for arguing why the company needs to keep the OH service. Do not make it personal.  Show them what you can do and what you have done. Explain what will happen if the service goes. Have they got other arrangements?  Why not propose that you do a management buyout and use the business case to support your proposal.

Remember to focus on the finance and legal aspects in these circumstances.

Example templates for a business case:

Further Reading

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