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Businesses count the cost of not investing in a healthy workforce

CSP press release published on 12 October 2010

More than half of workers feel their boss doesn't care about their health

UK employers are missing out on millions of pounds each year by failing to invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff, a new report published today by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) reveals.

Sickness Costs shows that organisations and companies that provide workplace benefits such as physiotherapy services make significant savings through higher productivity and fewer absences caused by conditions such as back pain and joint injuries, which are known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

A survey for the report suggested employers are unaware of the potential savings and do not recognise the consequences of failing to act on MSDs, which affect 550,000 people across the UK, according to the Health and Safety Executive, making it the most common work-related health problem.

The CSP is concerned that the attitudes of some employers may stop staff seeking help for health problems that may be preventable.

The survey found that in the UK:

  • Three in ten managers believe staff who call in sick with an MSD are well enough to work, but just don't want to
  • More than a third (35 per cent) find such absences irritating because others have to take on additional workload, while 22 per cent say it's a drain on their business they cannot afford
  • 50 per cent of workers feel their bosses don't care about their health
  • A quarter of workers fear being sacked or facing redundancy down the line if they take time off sick
  • Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of small-to-medium enterprises do not provide occupational health services to staff

The survey follows earlier research carried out by the CSP that showed 36 per cent of employees work all day without a lunch-break and 31 per cent experienced physical pain at work at least once a week, putting their health at risk and causing huge cost to employers.

Phil Gray, Chief Executive of the CSP, said: "We recognise it is tempting in difficult economic times for businesses to cut back on health and wellbeing initiatives such as a physiotherapy service.

"But that is a false economy, because ignoring a recurring condition can potentially lead to lower productivity and high temporary staffing costs.

"We are calling on employers to follow the lead of companies highlighted in the report who invest in the health of their staff."
Statistics from the Work Foundation reveal that absences from work caused by MSDs alone cost society about £7.4 billion a year. And research by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health show a further £15 billion is lost through 'presenteeism' where staff are at work but performing below their full potential because they are unwell.

Sickness Costs shows Anglian Water was able to achieve a return on investment of £3 for every £1 spent on physiotherapy services. In addition, claims for back pain reduced by 50 per cent and ill health retirement by 90 per cent.

Royal Mail achieved similar benefits, with their programme providing a return of approximately £5 for every £1 invested.

Ann Green, Chair of the CSP, said: "The findings in our report should be of real concern to all of us as they suggest a culture in which staff with genuine illness or injury are encouraged to work, rather than get appropriate treatment.

"As shown in the report, early access to physiotherapy is particularly effective in preventing musculoskeletal disorders from becoming a serious long-term problem. Employers need to encourage a more open culture so employees feel able to report sickness sooner."
A leaflet, called Fitness Profits, has been produced as part of the CSP's Fit for Work campaign and provides advice and information for business of all sizes on how to keep staff healthy and improve productivity.

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: "The report shows the value of investing in employee wellbeing to support health and reduce absence. Proactive support and early intervention can make all the difference in identifying and managing problems such as stress and back pain, which if not addressed, frequently become recurrent and often long-term problems.

"Research shows the longer people are off sick the less chance they have of returning to work. Early referral to occupational health and the availability of treatments such as physiotherapy and counselling can make the difference between someone staying at work and managing their condition and going off on long-term sick leave and in some circumstances falling out of employment altogether."
The CSP's Fit for Work campaign encourages both employers and employees to adopt healthier lifestyles through improving poor work practices, taking regular exercise to reduce stress and improve fitness and encouraging a work-life balance.

For further media information please call the CSP press office on 020 7306 1111. Out of hours please call Becca Bryant, head of press and PR (job share), on 07917 420 819, Debbie Broadhurst, head of press and PR (job share) on 07786 332 197 or Jon Ryan, media and PR officer on 07917 091 200.

Notes for editors

  1. Survey results from Opinium Research online poll of 531 UK managers, August 20-27, 2010, and 2,628 working age adults, March 2-9, 2010.
  2. The CSP's Fit for Work initiative is part of its wider Move for Health campaign which encourages people to adopt healthier life styles - in particular getting more exercise, which has a role to play in the prevention of stress. Making healthy choices, like eating a balanced diet, taking exercise and having a work-life balance, can protect a person's mental health in the same way that it does their physical health.
  3. The CSP supports the recently introduced Statement of Fitness to Work (which has replaced the 'sick note') with its emphasis on helping people return to work by focussing on what they are capable of rather than what they are not capable of. Recent research has shown that returning to work promotes recovery and aids rehabilitation; improves physical and mental health and well-being and reduces social exclusion and poverty.
  4. The CSP's free leaflets including Fit for Work, The Easy Exercise Guide, and Fit for the Future (aimed at children and parents) offer advice on taking the first steps towards a healthier life style.
  5. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK's 49,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. See our previous press releases.

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