Employee sickness costs businesses more than £14bn each year

There are clear benefits to supporting employee health and well-being but the government needs to help too, claims CBI

Employee sickness costs businesses more than £14bn each year

With modern working life becoming harder and more stressful, is it really any wonder we’re taking more days off sick? Maybe not, but it seems employee absenteeism through illness can be avoided if companies make health and well-being a core part of their business ethos. 

A report from the CBI and Medicash, the health plan provider, claims that there are clear business benefits to supporting employee health and well-being. The report, entitled Getting Better: Workplace Health as a Business Issue, outlines how improving employee health can contribute to better business performance through lower absence, higher productivity and higher engagement. 

The direct cost of employee absence to the economy is estimated to be more than a whopping £14bn each year and the CBI’s latest absence survey found that the average cost to businesses for each absent employee is £975. These figures would be even higher if productivity lost due to presenteeism – staff attending work despite being unwell – was also included.

It’s not all bad news though. The CBI has outlined some key actions that businesses can take to improve their employees’ health. It advises businesses to develop joined-up health and well-being programmes, take a proactive and preventive approach to health and well-being, equip managers with the knowledge and support to handle health conditions and to ensure robust systems are in place to effectively manage absence and the return to work.

“Developing and implementing a targeted healthcare strategy can help business avoid costly absenteeism and ensure their workforce is a happy, healthy and committed one,” said Sue Weir, CEO of Medicash. “Offering a health and wellbeing package is an affordable and beneficial means of doing this and of attracting, motivating, rewarding and retaining staff.”

However, this isn’t a task that businesses can fight alone and the CBI is urging the powers-that-be to lend a helping hand as well. It is calling on the government to promote the new Health and Work Service, use tax relief and incentives to encourage employer-funded interventions into health conditions at earlier points, promote the benefits of flexible working to help absent employees back into the workplace and to continue raising awareness of key public health issues.

“Having healthy staff is an essential part of running a healthy business,” added Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills. “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.”

So important is the issue of health and well-being that we may have our own article on the subject in production as you read this. Watch this space. 

Tom Davis
Tom Davis

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