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29th Jan 2013

Firms Must Work To Help Keep Their Staff Healthy

THE workplace is a key setting to influence lifestyle choices.

It therefore has a responsibility to help address preventable health risks, such as obesity and smoking, that can lead to chronic illnesses.

That was the key message from Health Minister Edwin Poots as he addressed the Business in the Community Annual Conference.

The minister said: “Research evidence has demonstrated that work is generally good for both physical and mental health and wellbeing. However, if the work is not healthy, safe or if it does not offer the individual some influence over how work is done and a sense of self-worth, it can lead to ill-health and absenteeism.

“This can be detrimental to the business community as a whole, especially in this tough economic climate.

“For many of us, the workplace is where we spend much of our waking adult life. The geography, the people and indeed the work itself, can all have a huge impact — positive and negative — on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

“In turn, this can have an impact on our home life, family and eventually our demands on the health service.” The minister continued: “A purely economic view of the issue provides some stark messages.

“In April 2011, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that absenteeism is costing British businesses up to £32bn every year.

“The report also highlighted that UK workers annually have an average of 10 days unscheduled absence, on a par with the rest of Western Europe but around twice that of their counterparts in the US and Asia-Pacific region.

“It is therefore important to highlight that although much headway has been made by businesses in tackling poor mental health, obesity in the workplace and the impact of good health on the economy, more needs to be done.”

Addressing the topic of work and the importance of health and wellbeing, Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “Work is a fundamental part of all of our lives. It gives us a sense of belonging and provides a purpose. Work gives us status and helps us realise our full potential. It provides opportunities for social interaction and of course an income.”

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