The health of the working age population in the UK has become a high priority for policymakers over the last decade or so. As the population and the workforce ages, a higher proportion of people of working age are developing work-limiting long-term health conditions. There appears to have also been a significant increase in the prevalence of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety among working age people, and the significance of this in understanding patterns of worklessness, sickness absence and premature withdrawal from work has only recently been recognised by policymakers. In addition, there has been a realisation that workforce health is not ‘owned’ by a single policy ‘domain’ or department and yet required joined-up planning and implementation if declining workforce health is not to threaten UK productivity, labour market participation and social inclusion. The three studies presented here which draw on data from Understanding Society to look at contemporary challenges in health and employment highlight the need for policymakers to embrace the emerging evidence on workforce health if they are to bring about sustainable improvements in labour market outcomes for working age people living with health problems.