Overweight workers tip scales on ‘sickies’

A top heavy workforce can be a real financial drain on a business.

According to a recent German study, overweight workers are much more likely to take sick days than their slimmer and presumably healthier workmates.

The study of almost 8000 overweight workers found obese workers took nearly 90 per cent more sick days than workers considered to be of ‘normal weight’.

Researchers at the Hamburg Centre for Health Economics concluded this excessive ‘sickie’ rate had a formidable contribution to industry lost-productivity costs. Workers classed as overweight, meanwhile — not obese — were found to take about 31 per cent more sick days than their slimmer colleagues.

The research team concluded that excess weight was a significant contributing factor to absenteeism, disability, and premature mortality. Sick leave duration of obese workers was also found to be more prolonged than non-obese workers.

While there was no shortage of workplace health programs that had been shown to have varying levels of success, evidence pointing to financial returns was inconclusive, researchers said.

Australian research, however, suggests successful health programs could see businesses experience up to three times more productivity, less sick leave and injuries, as well as higher morale. Research also reveals healthy workers are fitter, more aware, alert and resilient against illness, and less likely to sustain manual handling injuries and strains.

Healthy weight is just one of six health focus areas of the new Get Healthy at Work service being rolled out by WorkCover NSW in partnership with NSW Health.

Businesses that register will receive access to all the tools, resources and support needed to develop a simple workplace health program, along with free and confidential health checks to help workers understand their risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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