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The Confederation of British Industry is stressing to UK businesses the importance of investing in employee health and wellbeing.

The UK’s leading independent employers group has published a new report in association with Medicash, Getting Better: Workplace Health as a Business Issue. The 34-page report details how implementing strategies for improving employees’ health can reduce absence rates, deliver higher productivity and enhance employee engagement.

The new report follows the publication last year of the latest edition of the CBI’s Fit for purpose survey on absenteeism and workplace health .This found that despite rates falling the total cost to business of direct absence was still a staggering £14bn with each absent employee costing their employer £975.

“Investing in the wellbeing of employees is not only the right thing to do, it has real business benefits,” commented the CBI’s Director for Employment and Skills, Neil Carberry, before adding a plea for private-public sector co-ordination on the issue. “It’s time for businesses and government to work hand-in-hand to move from a reactive to proactive approach on health and wellbeing in the workplace.”

“Encouraging investment that gets people back to work sooner, with less of a burden on the NHS, is in everybody’s interest.”

The CBI has also flagged up concern about “presenteeisim” – when staff attend work despite being unwell and therefore not necessarily being to perform at their best. It’s an issue which Carberry argues businesses should be equally concerned about.

A proactive approach to health and wellbeing in the workplace

The new report offers case studies detailing how a variety of businesses have used different tactics and strategies to promote health and wellbeing, including occupational health support and weight loss challenges. It acknowledges that there is no “one size fits all” solution and urges business to devise proactive mechanisms which include monitoring health trends to promote wellbeing. It cites three areas which currently demand attention. Firstly that mental wellbeing is a significant and prevalent issue: last year a study* reported 44% of the population was suffering stress.

Secondly it noted that businesses should find ways to influence the lifestyle choices of their employees given a climate in which chronic diseases such as diabetes are disproportionately increasing. Obesity, which it is predicted by the National Obesity Forum will affect 50% of the population by 2050, was singled out both as a cause for concern and which it was in the interest of businesses to tackle. It states that “the gains of having a physically fit, physically active workforce must be recognised. This attitude needs to be embraced and embedded fully within modern workplace culture.”

Finally it noted the high rate of absenteeism caused by musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). Health & Safety Executive figures show that in 2011-12 there were 439,000 MSD cases which cost an estimated 7.5m lost working days.

This new report again highlights that absenteeism and presenteeism are serious issues demanding the attention of business managers and owners. Of course how individual businesses should address them is the question that demands answers. One route, relatively low on administration and payroll cost, may be to consider introducing a company medical insurance scheme. As well as offering prompt access to diagnosis and treatment these also offer access to preventative care and services such as GP hotlines, health assessments and wellbeing programmes. A number also offer what might be termed “lifestyle nudges” by offering discounts to gyms and health clubs.

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** If you’re interested in introducing proactive measures to help your staff stay healthier, happier and more productive why not discuss possible options with one of our business health insurance and employee benefits advisers? You can contact the team by calling 01254 504910.