09 October 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
A survey suggests that firms aren't acting to prevent sickness absence, reports Herpreet Kaur Grewal.
Companies must better prioritise the health and well-being of their staff because the average number of days lost to ill health per employee is 5.2 days a year, according to survey analysis by the CBI, in partnership with Bupa and HCA Healthcare.
For Front of Mind: Prioritising Workplace Health & Wellbeing, 347 businesses of all sizes across the UK - together employing nearly 1.7 million people - were surveyed or interviewed to understand what steps they are taking to improve workplace health and well-being.
The study puts the cost of each absence because of ill health at an average of £720 a day for each company.
Encouragingly, it found that companies are motivated to play a greater role in supporting people, with 63 per cent seeing workplace health and well-being as an important business issue, and 52 per cent of business leaders recognising the need to focus on prevention, not just the cure.
Yet worryingly, 71 per cent of firms say they find it hard to take practical action because they are not clear on what works, and cannot see the benefits for others that have invested.
To support the thousands of firms seeking to improve health and well-being for their employees, Front of Mind includes case studies from companies demonstrating good practice and makes recommendations including:
1. Making health and well-being a leadership priority and training line managers to support their teams effectively.
2. Creating a culture where physical and mental health have equal focus - raising awareness of what poor mental health looks like, the techniques to help improve it, and encouraging staff to have open conversations.
3. Targeting action on early interventions by offering fast and confidential access to treatment through health insurance where possible to minimise the time that employees take as sick leave and using technology to promote health and well-being.
Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: "People spend on average 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so businesses should prioritise and promote health and well-being in their workplaces.
"Companies perform better when their staff are happier, healthier and more engaged. There are great examples of firms leading the way, but we've also found that most businesses don't yet know how to realise the full potential of taking action.
"To invest in better supporting staff health and well-being, firms don't need to reinvent the wheel. There's lots to be gained from adopting the good practice that's already out there."
Almost one in three people of working age have a long-term health condition, estimated to cost the UK economy £100 billion a year. 1.3 million people suffered from a new or long-standing work-related illness last year alone, and up to five million workers are thought to be experiencing a mental health condition this year.