Almost a third of employees call on businesses to tackle obesity

UK business is coming under increasing pressure to tackle obesity after a new study found 31 per cent of employees believe their employers should help them lose weight.

The nationwide study, conducted on behalf of PMI Health Group, found the call was loudest in Scotland, where 41 per cent want their employers to take action, and London (38 per cent).

Furthermore, 34 per cent of respondents also claim companies have a moral responsibility to help them lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.

These results follow on from a December ruling by the European Court of Justice that severe obesity can constitute a disability and calls from the head of the NHS to financially reward employers who introduce weight-loss schemes.

“Obesity is a rapidly growing problem in the UK - one that is estimated to cost the economy £47 billion a year,” said PMI Health Group Director Mike Blake.

“Consequently, employers are coming under pressure to share the responsibility for tackling the problem by helping staff to lead healthier lifestyles. But, aside from the obvious benefit to employees, a proactive approach is also good for the long-term health of the business, helping to tackle sickness absence before it becomes an issue.

"The cost of diabetes to the NHS, for example, is expected to rise from £9.8 billion to £16.9 billion over the next 25 years. Initiatives such as cycle-to-work schemes, fitness classes, nutritional advice and weight-loss programmes can be relatively cheap to implement but provide clear economic benefit by reducing the risk of serious conditions developing."

The study also revealed 35 per cent of employees believe businesses should run specific schemes that incentivise staff to lose weight.

Men are particularly keen on such schemes, with 38 per cent of them calling for their introduction, compared to 31 per cent of women. Once more, there were also strong calls in London (45 per cent) and Scotland (37 per cent).


The research was conducted online by global research consultancy TNS Omnibus among 582 adults, aged 16-64, who are currently in full or part-time employment in Great Britain. The interviewed sample was weighted to represent the adult population of Great Britain. 

Staff ranked benefits from a finite list, including all UK major benefits currently offered to staff (contributory pension schemes, health insurance, company car schemes, life insurance, income protection insurance, health screenings, critical illness cover, counselling or EAPs, childcare vouchers and cash plans).