UPfront: Pain in the Profits

If illness-related absenteeism was line item on company’s profit and loss statement, the cost would probably exceed 15 percent of the profit, according to study by Southern Cross Health Works over the past 12 months.

The study, carried out at organisations which collectively employed 19,000 people, fairly conclusively confirms the high cost of illness-related absenteeism according to Health Works’ Rachelle Hardies Neil, manager, corporate health risk management.

Other findings from the first stage of this two-stage study include:
* The greatest organisation problems occur when staff stay away for five continuous days year because of ill health. Though few in number, such employees were disproportionate drain on profits. They can represent up to 50 percent of the total cost of absenteeism.
* More than two thirds of workforce will take at least one day’s absence for health reasons year.
* Repeat, continuous ill health absences can be targeted and managed down, while staff well-being is simultaneously preserved.

Of the 19,000 involved in the study, about 3500 are now undergoing health risk assessments in process called “Discovery” – clinically validated health risk programme at their GP practice. The information uncovered individually was aggregated to give health profile of the “population” for each business. The health risk assessment programme also challenged employer assumptions about the health of their workforces. Results showed:
* Fifty percent of employees were clinically overweight, but generally didn’t think they were. The staff surveyed were mainly European, and didn’t realise their weight was health risk issue and leading factor in heart disease.
* Almost 21 percent suffered lower back pain which they said affected their work and/or home activities in the past year. Lower back pain is leading cause of absence or lower productivity.
* Nearly 12 percent had risk factors for heart disease including high weight, lack of exercise, hypertension, high chol- esterol levels.

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