Workplace Wellness and Wellbeing Programs

Many workplaces are introducing health promotion programs which provide health checks for high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking, diabetes, over weight etc. These programs can be very popular as they can save people going to their own doctor, it is done on the employer's time and we all feel better if our health is examined by a health professional.

But this is a case of BUYER BEWARE - just think:

  • What written assurances have been given to prevent workers compensation insurance companies having access to or knowing that these tests have been done and use the results in denying workers comp payments (this has already happened)? What are the implications in the case of self insurers?
  • What written assurance do people have that the results are confidential? What stops the employer or people performing the health checks from contacting your Doctor for information? What stops your Doctor from giving them information?
  • How much is the program costing and why is the employer funding it? Why is the employer providing the program, what are the benefits for them? What is evidence for the business case that makes an employer adopt these programs?

What is the employer doing about the contribution of work to chronic disease? What changes is the employer making to ensure that their workplace and work they control does not contribute to ill health? Just a few examples:

  • 18% of adult onset asthma is due to workplace exposures
  • It is estimated that 11% of cancer in men and 2% of cancer in women is related to work exposures (maybe up to 26% of men's lung cancer is work related)
  • Nearly one in five (17 per cent) working women more than one in eight (13 per cent) working men suffering depression can attribute their condition to job stress
  • Job stress doubles the risk of heart attack and increases the risk of being overweight
  • Long hours of work and shiftwork increase the likelihood of being a smoker
  • Job stress increases the risk of back and neck pain.
  • Good work is very good for our health. And Bad Work is bad for our health - just look at the list above.

Employers have legal obligations under health and safety laws to provide work that is without risks to health and safety.

SO, BUYER BEWARE - Ask yourself:

  • How is the wellness program making work good?
  • What actions from the wellness program are eliminating work stress, manual handling, hazardous substances (cancer causing agents etc), and risk of heart attack?