New research from GE Capital highlights that the vast majority (87%) of businesses in the manufacturing sector do nothing to encourage staff to eat healthily or facilitate and support their exercise efforts. Only one in twenty (5%) do the bare minimum, and encourage their employees to take a lunch break and stretch their legs, and less than one in ten (11%) have an active scheme in place to encourage healthy eating and exercise.
The findings, which are based on interviews with the owners and managers of 500 SMEs across the UK, show that more than a third (34%) businesses in the sector indicated that they lose at least 25 days each year due to employee health issues (compared with a UK average of 30%), with one in ten (10%) losing over 100 days. As recent research* revealed the average financial cost of absenteeism per employee is 412 per year for SMEs, the potential impact on earnings and growth is vast.
John Jenkins, CEO, GE Capital said: "Against a backdrop of growing pressure on NHS budgets and a need for SMEs to drive economic growth, anything that can be done to enable SMEs to invest more to promote a healthier lifestyle amongst their employees has got to make economic sense. Healthy workplaces will result in a higher level of productivity whilst minimising any health insurance costs that small firms may have."
Almost two in five manufacturing firms (39%) believe that nothing can be done to change the support they provide to their employees. Almost half (47%) think that the provision of free health checks for employees could make a difference, while over a quarter (26%) think the government needs to provide better tax breaks for employee health club memberships. In addition, just over one in five (21%) would like to have more information about prompting health in the workplace.
Professor Paul Gately, Carnegie Professor of Exercise and Obesity, Leeds Metropolitan University, said: "Having a healthier workforce as a result of small firms offering more structured support will dramatically reduce the costs to UK SMEs, not to mention the benefits that the employees themselves will gain. There are many excellent initiatives and schemes that offer workers a real chance to gain and maintain a healthy lifestyle and it is important that employers offer such benefits and encourage greater participation."
GE Capital is committed to supporting firms to have a healthier workforce and has launched a global campaign called healthyimagination (healthyimagination.com) in order to share ideas and practical measures that firms, individuals and healthcare providers can take to improve the health and welfare of workers.
* CBI study highlighted the average financial cost of absenteeism per employee for SMEs is 412 per year.
GE Capital commissioned an independent market research company, the Survey Shop, to interview 500 owner managers of SMEs based in the UK. The research was conducted anonymously by phone during March 2010.