Employers are ‘all talk but no action’ on workplace health


A major international study of workplace health, conducted by Bupa, has revealed the huge potential of employee health and wellbeing initiatives to tackle diseases such as cancer. Research by the healthcare group also unveiled a gap between employers’ beliefs and actions when it comes to workplace health. Of the 1,762 employers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Poland and Spain who took part in the study, three in four (73%) agreed that a healthy workforce is a more productive one. Yet, one in three (30%) of the 17,800 employees spoken to said their employer offers no health or wellbeing benefits. Three in ten (26%) employees said that when it comes to wellbeing, their company is all talk but no action.

Bupa, which is sponsoring this week’s World Cancer Congress in Melbourne, has collaborated with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to publish a new report, Cancer: It’s Everyone’s Business, on tackling cancer in the workplace.

The report outlines the business case for employers to help to combat cancer and recommends that employers encourage healthy behaviours to reduce cancer risk factors, deliver awareness campaigns and screening programmes to detect cancer early, and support employees who have had a cancer diagnosis.

However, the Bupa study found that only 4% of employees said that their employer provides support to help workers quit smoking, and only 5% said their employer provides health awareness and education campaigns.

Across the five countries included in the study, health insurance came top of the list of benefits employees would like to receive (47%).

It seems that employers could be missing out on the benefits of workplace health initiatives. Around half of the employees polled (48%) said they would be more productive if they felt healthier, suggesting that workplace health is a win-win for employers and employees.

Nearly two in five employees (34%) said that their job has a negative impact on their physical health, and one in three (31%) said it has a negative impact on their mental health. Employers may therefore have a responsibility to mitigate these effects.

Across the countries included in the study, 14% of employees said they had taken action on their lifestyle because of a health campaign run by their employer, demonstrating that the workplace has great potential for changing unhealthy habits and improving global health.

Dr Fiona Adshead, director of wellbeing and public health, Bupa, said: “There is enormous potential for ensuring more people adopt healthier lifestyles and reduce their risk of chronic disease by engaging them in their place of work. What’s more, smart employers know that healthier employees come to work, perform at their best and go the extra mile.

“In 2012, cancer caused over eight million deaths and around half of those people were in the prime of their productive years. Employers have a crucial role to play in reducing cancer. The workplace is going to be the battleground on which the war on cancer is won.

“With half the world’s population in employment, helping people to be healthier at work has the potential to transform the world’s health.”

Cary Adams, chief executive officer, UICC, said: “Cancer not only deprives families of loved ones but also deprives businesses of valuable employees. But the good news is that employee wellbeing programmes and health education initiatives can reduce people’s risk of developing cancer, as well as keeping them active and contributing members of the workforce for longer.”

Full press release on www.bupa.com