New survey reveals health of Kiwi workers

New survey reveals health of Kiwi workers


New survey results reveal health of kiwi workers, workplaces NewZealand lost around 6.6 million working days at a cost of $1.51 billion in 2016

The latest Wellness in the Workplace Survey results released bySouthern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ have revealed a current picture ofworkplace health and wellness for Kiwi workers.

It is the third time the biennial survey has been carried out andBusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope says trends are now forming aboutworkplace absence and its causes.

“In 2016 New Zealand lost an average of 6.6 million working days toabsence and, reflecting over the life of the survey, we can now see the countryloses an average of 6.1 million to 6.7 million days annually.”

Hope says that level of absence comes with a significant price tag forthe economy – around $1.51 billion in 2016 and $1.41 billion a year on averageover the past five years.

“For employers the direct cost of an absent employee is typicallybetween $600 and $1,000 annually.”

According to the survey findings theprimary causes of absence are non-work related illness or injury followed bytaking time off to care for a family member or dependent due to illness orinjury, with the average rate of absence per employee being 4.5-5 days.

The survey, of 109 private and publicsector businesses representing more than 93,000 employees (about 5% of NewZealand’s workforce), also revealed that stress levels, though moderate, are onthe rise for the second consecutive time with general workload being the maincause of anxiety.

Southern Cross Health Society CEO NickAstwick says the findings are concerning, but not surprising.

“Last year we surveyed more than 500 of our corporate customers andfor those that have a wellbeing initiative in place, their top motivator fordoing so is to reduce stress. But New Zealand is by no means unique in thisarea. It’s estimated around 38 per cent of the world’s workers are sufferingfrom excessive pressure on the job[1].”

The good news out of the survey is thatboth larger and smaller businesses are now more likely to have some form ofemployee assistance programme to help staff manage stress (the figure for businesseswith fewer than 50 staff has more than doubled since 2014 to 32%).

And Astwick says Southern Cross HealthSociety’s new BeingWell hub, launching later this month, is a direct responseto businesses seeking help to resource and implement a workplace health andwellness programme.

He says the digital hub allowsbusinesses to work with Southern Cross to tailor a package to suit their needsand budget, ranging from free on-line starter kits through to bespoke coachingand expert


seminars. An app that calculates apersonal health score for each individual will follow later in the year.                                                
“There’s recognition now that wellness programmes can boost factors likestaff engagement, productivity and retention. During our lifetimes most of uswill spend about 90,000 hours at work so it makes sense for employers tosupport the health and wellbeing of their staff while they’re on the job – it’sa win-win.”

Health insurance often forms part of anemployee’s remuneration or workplace wellness package and the survey’s historyshows more than a third of businesses offer this, with larger businesses stillbeing more likely to have some form of health insurance for their staff.

But while the importance of workplacehealth and wellbeing is being increasingly recognised, including an improvingtrend toward recognising work-life balance and providing a family-friendlyworkplace, the latest Wellness in the Workplace Survey has revealed there isstill more work to do when it comes to older workers.

Kirk Hope says three out of fourbusinesses still don’t have policies or arrangements in place for olderworkers, although there has been gradual improvement since the first surveyback in 2012.

“The concerning thing is that we have aperfect storm swirling with an ageing population that’s living and workinglonger, a declining birth rate, an increasing skills shortage, greater levelsof debt and falling home ownership.”

Hope says the survey results show around60 per cent of staff in large businesses are likely to retire in the 65-67 agebracket, but the picture is different for businesses with less than 50 staff.

“Among those small firms staff are morelikely to work beyond 65, to the extent that more than 13 per cent of smallerbusinesses will have a typical retirement age of 71 or older.”

The most common steps businesses arealready taking include offering reduced or flexible hours of work, providingretirement information packs and undertaking age neutral recruiting.

But Hope says it’s crucial that allbusinesses ensure they have the right balance of policies and practices inplace so they maximise older workers’ contributions, don’t lose skills andexperience prematurely, support their older staff effectively, and havesuccession and retirement planning options in place.

Hope and Astwick say the Wellness in theWorkplace Survey is one of the most comprehensive assessments of New Zealand’sposition when it comes to absenteeism, stress and wellness in the workplace.

“We hope business can use the findingsas a basis for tweaking or introducing policies and procedures that positivelybenefit the health and wealth of their employees and themselves.”






Keysurvey findings and additional information

  • The average rate of absence per employee is 4.5-five days.
  • Wellness has a sizeable impact on the productivity of most enterprises, with most experiencing a noticeable drop in output when staff are unwell.
  • New Zealand’s overall absence rate has typically remained below five days, but continues to be well above four.
  • Average days of absence for non-manual workers have continued to increase while the opposite has been the case for manual employees.
  • Non-manual workers in enterprises with fewer than 50 staff have the lowest average level of absence.
  • Absence rates are still likely to be higher among manual workers operating in large enterprises.
  • Average absence levels are consistently higher for public sector workers who are, on average, away 2-2.5 days more than private sector staff.
  • On average, more than 40% of staff still turn up to work ill despite businesses encouraging them to stay home when sick.
  • Cost, evidence of reduced absenteeism and increased retention, and the removal of Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) are the key factors businesses consider when deciding whether to provide health insurance for staff. These have remained unchanged since the survey began.

A full copyof the Southern Cross Health Society-BusinessNZ Wellness in the WorkplaceSurvey report will be available from 5am on August 1st. Click the link below toview it:

About Southern Cross Health Society

Southern Cross HealthSociety opened forbusiness in 1961 and more than 50 yearson the not-for-profit friendlysociety is New Zealand’s leading health insurer. With over 820,000 members, thebusiness funded more than 206,000 elective procedures, 726,000 GP visits and428,000 specialist consultations in the financial year ended 30 June 2016 –paying claims in excess of $749 million.

About BusinessNZ

BusinessNZ is New Zealand’s largest business representation group,providing a wide range of services for member businesses.
BusinessNZ undertakes analysis and advocacy on behalf of the wider business,manufacturing,

importing and exporting sectors, making representations to Government,local government and other decision makers on issues important to business.

BusinessNZ regional organisations – EMA, BusinessCentral, CanterburyEmployers’ Chamber of Commerce and Employers Otago Southland – provide servicesand advocacy on behalf of thousands of businesses in all parts of New Zealand.

For moreinformation, contact:

Southern Cross Healthcare Group


Janine Kendall, Senior Communications Advisor
Southern Cross Healthcare GroupPhone
09 925 6420  Mobile 021 375 167

Kathryn Asare, Communications Manager
04 496 6556 Mobile 021 555 744




1 Aug, 2017

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