The Ageing Workforce
The UK workforce is getting older. By 2012 the Department of Work Pensions has estimated that 12 million workers will be over the age of 65 and that there will be 1.3 million fewer workers aged between 25–35. The proportion of people reporting long-term conditions or disability also increases with age. At the age of 50, 20% of the working population report to have long-term conditions or disabilities. At the age of 60–64 this rises to nearly 40%. The most common conditions affecting older workers are high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Although people are predisposed to certain chronic illnesses due to genetics, age, gender or race; lifestyle changes can decrease the chances of being affected by long-term conditions, and the severity of their impact.
With most adults spending a substantial proportion of their daily lives in the workplace, employers can play a vital role in improving the health and wellbeing of the work force. This may include ongoing workplace health promotion, raising awareness of particular health issues and supporting employees to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Sickness absence rates
In 2011, 190 million absence days were taken in the UK. This on average amounted to 6.5 days per employee and cost an average of £760 per employee per year². Although the work force is progressively getting older, sickness absence is actually lowest among workers over state pension age and highest in the 16 – 24 age group³.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests the main causes of short term absence for both manual and non-manual workers are illnesses such as colds, flu and stomach upsets. Among manual workers the next most significant cause of short-term absence is musculoskeletal conditions, such as neck strains and repetitive strain injury, followed by back pain and stress.
Proactively promoting and implementing health and well-being strategies in the workplace and enabling staff to choose healthier options or lifestyles is key to preventing illness arising in the first place. The Worcestershire Works Well scheme aims to provide you with the tools and guidance to successfully improve the health and well-being of the work force and therefore reduce sickness absence rates.
The impact of poor health and well-being on productivity
Although developing health conditions may not always result in sickness absence from work, it can still have an effect on productivity. This is especially the case when employees perform to a lower level or are not fully engaged as a result of ill-health. Often referred to as presenteeism, the cost to the UK economy is £15.1 billion per annum from mental ill health alone.
The top ten health problems impacting on productivity are:
- Back pain/neck pain
- Sleeping problems
- Other chronic pain
- High Cholesterol
³ C Barham and N Begum, Sickness absence from work in the UK (2005)