Ticking Public Health Bomb Means now is the time for employers to make a change

Following the festive period, many people are just about getting back to the normal routine, whilst grappling with a mix of post-Christmas and winter blues – all of which can have an impact on absence, engagement and productivity in the workforce. More positively January offers the opportunity to reflect on the past year and prepare for the year ahead.

A Look Back at 2015

2015 saw significant changes in HR, particularly with the changes to parental leave allowing both parents to share up to 52 weeks of leave after adding a child to the family. The government also began rolling out its Fit for Work referral scheme, which offers free occupational health assistance for employees, employers and GPs. It was a positive step for addressing unplanned absence and helping employees to stay in or return to work, but it will remain a significant issue for many organisations during the coming year.

Absence Overview

The CIPD’s annual absence management survey reported that absence in 2015 increased from 6.6 days in 2014 to 6.9 days in 2015, per employee, with the average absence costing £554 pa. Minor illness remained the most common cause of short-term absence overall, but it is notable that 40% of organisations reported that stress-related absence had increased compared to 2014. Yet less than 60% of organisations are taking steps to reduce workplace stress – perhaps because identifying absence trends can be so difficult.

New Year, same old problems

Many of the health issues that organisations have faced over the past decade are not going to magically heal, with the following major public health issues remaining prevalent in 2016;

  • obesity now affects 25% of the population (compared to 14% in 1996 and projected to affect 60% by 2050) and
  • diabetes now affects more than 3 million people (a 59.8% increase since 2005 and projected to affect 5 million people by 2025)

Bulging health issues such as these will start to take more of a toll on businesses as they begin to have a greater impact on employee health and workforce absence. With local councils set to be required to invest a percentage of business rates in addressing public health issues, it will be interesting to see what affect this has, not only on public health and attendance but also on how local government, health providers and employers work together to address health issues.

As well as employee health, labour productivity will be high on the agenda for 2016 – and, of course, productivity is intrinsically tied to absence. It seems likely that organisations in all sectors will focus greater efforts on tracking and managing absence in 2016, particularly where it relates to health and stress. After all, happy, healthy employees are more productive employees and the role of technology in achieving these goals is going to be critical.

With new government initiatives and new enhanced solutions for managing unplanned absence, 2016 is shaping up to be a turning point in tackling the issues of absence, employee health & well-being in the workplace.

Empactis is a business and a technology platform built from a wealth of experience in employee health, engagement and Wellbeing.