“It’s about the challenges employees with sickle cell face in the workplace”

A Birmingham charity has been talking on camera about how it can better support its staff with sickle cell disease after signing up to a workplace wellbeing programme.

OSCAR Birmingham is working towards Foundation Level accreditation in the Thrive at Work programme, the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) scheme which officially recognises companies for actively promoting their employees’ health and wellbeing.

The charity was established to support people affected by sickle cell and thalassaemia disorders, and 75% of its staff either have the illness themselves or care for a family member with the chronic disorder. Sickle cell disease is the name for a group of inherited health conditions that affect the red blood cells and is particularly common in people with an African or Caribbean family background.

“It’s about the challenges employees with sickle cell face in the workplace”

OSCAR’s head of service and development manager, Hobby Rahman and senior youth mentor Jenica Leah

The charity specifically joined Thrive at Work because it wanted to be able to demonstrate its commitment to employee welfare and how it was improving health in the workplace.

Speaking during Black History Month, OSCAR’s Head of Service and Development Manager, Hobby Rahman, said: “For us it was about the challenges employees with sickle cell face in terms of employment. There are issues around discrimination and having an understanding of the condition as it is seen as an invisible illness. 

“We thought it would be great to have a framework to work within as well and to be recognised as a responsible, caring employer so we signed up to Thrive at Work and it has helped us look at whether we provide a safe and stress-free environment, and to guide us to seek continuous improvement.” 

The WMCA is calling for more employers across the Midlands and beyond to sign up for the free programme. Thrive at Work has four levels of accreditation, starting at the Foundation level and progressing on to Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. The programme is part-funded through the Mental Health and Productivity Pilot

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “The theme of this year’s Black History Month is ‘proud to be’, and it is wonderful to hear how OSCAR is proud to be part of our Thrive at Work programme to help their staff – especially those with sickle cell.

“We want more organisations to follow OSCAR and join Thrive at Work. By investing a small amount of time in wellbeing, businesses will reap the benefit of a happier, healthier workforce.”  

Following its five-step format Thrive at Work allows senior managers to build a clear understanding of their company’s current health and wellbeing provision. This provides the starting point to help them create an action plan to improve their current offering.  

Employers who achieve accreditation can display a Thrive at Work logo to demonstrate their level of commitment to improving the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.  

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, WMCA portfolio lead for Wellbeing and leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “By signing up to Thrive at Work OSCAR will be able to demonstrate not only that it is a responsible and caring employer, but it is also seeking to better itself. By displaying the Thrive at Work logo organisations will be able to share with others that it takes employee wellbeing and mental health seriously. 

“I urge employers in Warwickshire and across the Midlands to seriously consider joining Thrive at Work to boost the mental health and wellbeing of their employees and in turn help their businesses grow.”  

Later this month the Thrive Awards event will recognise the milestone of 50 new accreditations. 


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