Poor employee health is a huge cost to employers in both the UK and UAE. According to the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey from insurance company Vitality, an average of 38 productive days were lost per employee in 2019 due to illness and health problems. Key physical problems affecting employees include poor sleep quality and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as 39.4% of respondents who reported having at least one chronic health condition. Productivity loss is highest among low-income and younger workers.
Mental health shouldn’t be ignored, either. An analysis by Deloitte showed that poor employee mental health could cost UK employers up to £45 billion a year. This number has increased since 2016 by £6 billion – a total increase of 16%. In particular, the report highlights the cost to businesses of poor mental health in young adults. Employers lose the equivalent of 8.3% of the salaries of employees aged 18-29 due to poor mental health.
On the other hand. Investing in employee mental health can have a positive effect on employers. According to Deloitte’s research, for every £1 employers spend on supporting their employees with their mental health, they get £5 back thanks to reduced absenteeism, presenteeism, and staff turnover.
Further figures from Vitality suggested that the combined cost of physical and mental health problems to UK employers totalled an estimated £91.9 billion in 2019, an increase of £10 billion compared to 2018. Their study found that presenteeism, with employees at work but not working hard, affected 45% of workers and that depression in the workplace had more than doubled in just five years.
In the UAE, almost 22% of residents report facing unmanageable levels of stress. As a consequence of this, the cost of certain stress-related illnesses alone on the health system is around $698m (Dhs2.56bn), according to Asia Care Group. In Cigna’s annual 360⁰ Well-Being Survey, 91% of respondents reported stress at work and 96% said that stress from their colleagues had a negative impact on the workplace. Only 43% said that their workplace had a formal wellness programme, with more than half of those saying that they focused on physical health alone.
Employers in the UAE may have obligations to provide their employees with health insurance. For example, in Dubai, they must provide insurance for their employees, while in Abu Dhabi they must provide insurance for employees and their dependents. The cost of supplying insurance coverage for employees may already be a significant cost to employers. A YouGov survey showed that the average company’s cost rose from AED1 million in 2010 to AED1.6 million in 2015. But poor employee health can cost even more, with 53% of people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region saying that absenteeism in their workplace is moderate or high.
Poor employee health presents a significant problem for businesses in both the UK and UAE. Employers should take steps to help reduce employee health problems by offering support where it’s needed, for both physical and mental health issues.