Media releases

October 23, 2012

Most workers want staff health programs

While 85% of Australian workers think that employers should offer health programs, only 23% actively participate in them.

A Medibank survey called "Workplace health: Australian workers' perspectives" interviewed 5,000 people across 13 industries. The vast majority of participants said that their employers should be investing in the health and wellbeing of employees through workplace health initiatives.

As an example, 64% of respondents think that their employer should subsidise the private health insurance of employees.

However, in reality, the survey revealed that only 45% of employees are offered some kind of workplace health program.

Of those workplaces, a small majority of employees (52%) participate in them.

"Disappointingly, we would attribute this to perceived inconvenience. It's not because staff don't want to participate, the time and place just doesn't always suit them." says Dr Melissa Lehmann, National Manager, Specialist Services Unit - Medibank Health Solutions.

The main reasons people give for not being involved in workplace health programs is that they are 'too busy' (34%), that they 'exercise out of work' (33%) and that 'activities run at inconvenient times' (25%).

Across all surveyed industries, the most commonly offered workplace health programs are employee assistance programs including psychology services (offered to 31% of all employees), work injury treatments (to 22%) and health and wellbeing awareness raising initiatives (to 20%).

Of those people who aren't currently offered workplace health programs, the initiatives they wanted to see are 'on-site health and wellbeing classes and services' (36%), 'exercise/physical activity' programs (35%) and 'regular health screenings' (35%).

Importantly, 72% of workers who participate in workplace health initiatives think that their health and productivity improves as a result.

"This key finding tells us that employers can take steps to invest in the health and wellbeing of their employees, to ensure their workplace is safe, positive and - in turn - productive," adds Dr Lehmann. "We'd suggest employers examine all of their options. There is a range of ways Medibank can help."

Digital technologies, for example, are now providing simple, cost effective ways for employers to support workplace health. For example, tools such as the free Medibank Energy Balancer smartphone app helps users maintain wellbeing by enabling them to assess and better manage their health.

"When staff are issued laptops, iPads, tablets or smartphones, consider including software or apps that demonstrate to staff that their wellbeing is important," says Dr Lehmann.

Medibank supports the workplace health and wellbeing focus of State WorkSafe authorities all around Australia and recognises the important role played by Safe Work Weeks conducted in October.

Medibank has a strong record in undertaking research into issues affecting workplace health. As a recognised thought leader in this area, Medibank Health Solutions is soon providing a series of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) awareness sessions around the country.

These information and discussion sessions, facilitated by a WHS professional, will explain the new Federal Harmonisation Law and provide an opportunity to explore what they mean for business, including employers' responsibilities for risk management around issues such as fatigue.

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