How many sick days have you had this year?

How many sick days have you had this year?

Sick leave and working whilst unwell costs companies, on average, 7.78% of their yearly wage bill, according to the 2014 Britain’s Healthiest Company Report.

Using ONS statistics, this translates into an estimated total cost of lost productivity to the UK economy of over £58 billion per year.

The report issues a stark warning of a dormant health time bomb, with nearly two thirds of respondents having at least two bad lifestyle habits that put them at serious risk of future ill health. The findings highlight the strong link between these lifestyle risk factors, employees’ health and their absence from work, leaving employers ultimately left to pick up the bill as unhealthy staff take more time off sick and under-perform at work. 

Britain’s Healthiest Company research uses PruHealth’s unique Vitality Age algorithm to calculate the number of years of life gained or lost by taking into consideration the presence or absence of certain lifestyle and clinical risk factors. The research, which was undertaken by the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, who collaborate on health research through the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research, revealed that 87% of British workers have a Vitality Age older than their actual age, with an average difference of nearly four years older. Worryingly, a high proportion of employees have significantly poor lifestyle and risk profiles, with nearly one in seven people having a Vitality Age nine or more years older than their actual age.

Despite this prevalence of lifestyle risks, employees tend to be overly-optimistic about their current state of health; it was found that a third of employees have three or more risk factors but of these, over half believe they are in “good” or “very good” health, meaning they are less likely to have the motivation to change bad habits. Left unaddressed, these lifestyle risks ultimately develop into chronic disease, with around one in five employees already suffering from at least one lifestyle-related chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. 

According to Neville Koopowitz, Chief Executive of PruHealth with Vitality: 

“The effect of our lifestyles on the economy is dramatic, and this research should serve as a wake-up call and catalyst for change for employers across the country.  Doing nothing is no longer an option and businesses are realising the heavy financial burden being placed on their bottom lines as a result.  With an ageing workforce set to suffer from more lifestyle-related chronic diseases and retiring much later, this is a problem that will only get worse and it is in organisations’ own interests to take action. 

“As individual employees often lack the motivation to bring about the necessary change themselves, the workplace is the ideal agent of change due to the amount of time staff spends there, but to date has been very under utilised. Over 95% of investment by both corporates and the NHS is focused on treating people once they are ill but a more proactive approach needs to be taken around wellbeing and prevention.  However, interventions by companies need to be co-ordinated and targeted to address the underlying health risks in order to be most effective.”

Key findings relating to those who are outside the healthy range found that 52% don’t eat healthily enough and don’t have a balanced diet, and 67% of these respondents have no motivation to change their eating habits.

Nearly two in five are or have impacted their health through smoking; three in five of smokers have no intention of stopping any time soon

Commenting on the findings, Chris Bailey, Head of Corporate Consulting for Employee Health and Benefits at Mercer said: “The health trends we now see in the UK are fundamentally different from those in place when both the NHS and traditional employer benefit programmes were designed. Employee health programmes can typically be an employer’s highest people cost - after pensions - and shifting the focus from solely treating the ill, to preventing ill health in the first place can result in far better value for money. Most employers will state that their people are their primary asset, and the £58 billion cost of lost productivity is the cost of failing to maintain that asset. We’re now seeing an upswing in the numbers of companies looking to implement programmes that engage employees on their health which would allow the employer to play an active part in helping employees make the right choice.”

Britain’s Healthiest Company, which is run by PruHealth with Vitality, the architect of Lifestyle Health Insurance and the intellectual property provider to Britain’s Healthiest Company, and Mercer, the global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments, surveyed over 25,000 employees from 82 companies across a diverse range of industries and employer sizes. 

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