The number of people who are obese in the United Kingdom now stands at around 13 million.
That 13 million represents a near doubling of the rate in just 20 years, it also means that almost 30% of the population are obese.
These statistics, obtained by Diabetes UK, are a huge concern. Obesity affects the individual, their family and also wider society.
A huge increase in obesity will inevitably lead to greater demands being placed on the stretched NHS.
Individual employers could see productivity drop, if the rate of obesity in their workplace follows the national average and doubles then staff taking time off for medical issues might become more common. The ensuing rise in serious health conditions such as heart problems and diabetes will inevitably impact productivity.
Tackling this rise and ideally reducing the overall obesity rates might seem to be something for individuals to focus on. Is it for the individual to take sole responsibility for their weight?
Another view might be that the problem is societal and so government needs to play a larger role both through schemes that encourage healthy living and, controversially, taxes on food stuffs that are proven to lead to obesity.
What, though, if the employer can help too and do so in such a way that has only benefits for the individuals and the business.
The reality is that there are several ways an employer can help. They might not alter the national statistics too much, but they can help employees to stay in shape and, if all employers did that…
One obvious way to help is to set up a discounted gym membership scheme. This benefit is incredibly easy to set up and sees any employee who wants to join the gym at a reduced rate, with fees paid as a salary sacrifice.The savings achieved against tax and national insurance greatly reduce the cost of gym membership – it’s the same membership, just cheaper.
Setting up this scheme has many benefits. Some employees will, of course, already have gym memberships elsewhere that they are happy to continue, but for others it might provide that gentle nudge to get signed up.
Joining a gym is often something we intend to do but never quite get round to, having your employer make it easy for you removes a barrier to entry. Hopefully, once joined, the employee will then make some use of the gym, a couple of sessions a week can be the start of a healthier lifestyle.
The gym benefit can also help build team spirit, not only does it demonstrate that the employer is looking after its staff, providing a useful benefit at reduced cost, it also increases the likelihood of workmates sharing the same gym. The gym can be somewhere work team-mates meet and have conversations, hopefully they will have things to talk about other than work, but seeing colleagues outside of the workplace can only be good for overall morale.
A discounted gym scheme is straightforward to set up, with all admin automated and it also leads to NI savings for the employer.
Another option to consider is a cycle to work scheme, these probably schemes you are already well aware of.
Any employee wanting to join the scheme can get a superb bike paid for through salary sacrifice on a monthly basis (and so that save on the overall cost) and then use this as their transportation to and from the workplace.
We find that once a few employees start making use of this benefit it can grow exponentially, seeing colleagues turn up on a bike having got a nice bit of exercise in, rather than sitting in their car, can inspire others. Before you ,know it you’ll have your own racing team (well, that might be a slight exaggeration).
Health can also be approached from the other angle, with discounted health insurance schemes and even an Employee Assistance Programme, this a 24/7 confidential line any employee can call to talk through any issues.
If an employee is suffering with an issue that impacts their mental health then physical health may well also suffer too, certainly it is less likely they will undertake exercise. Having an EAP can be a service that helps employees to talk through problems and potentially find a resolution more quickly.
These benefits all serve to make employees feel valued, they demonstrate that their employer makes life that bit easier for them and plays a pastoral role in looking after staff. Benefits can also help stem the flow of quality members of staff leaving for new jobs and they also help to attract quality new recruits – a comprehensive benefit package could be a key differentiator when choosing between potential employers.
As one employer, you can’t alter the national statistics too much, all we can do is hope that the obesity trend reverses. What you can do is look after the health of your staff and implement steps to aid their physical and mental wellbeing.
At Enjoy Benefits, we have great experience in helping companies of all sizes introduce benefits that are suitable for their workplace.
Benefits are easy to set ups and ongoing administration is then run through a hub, this allowing employees to manage their own benefits while the employer can see which benefits are proving popular and what level of take-up each has had.
If you would like an obligation free chat to discuss which benefits might work for your business and your employees, please contact us by calling 0800 088 7315 or using our Contact Form.