Workers blame employers for contributing to obesity

More than a third (34%) of UK workers claim their employers have directly contributed to higher levels of obesity, new research has revealed.

Longer working hours preventing exercise was cited by 59 per cent as the main reason for this, according to the study of 1,197 workers by Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson.

Almost half (48 per cent) blamed a lack of exercise facilities and initiatives, while unhealthy vending machine or ‘tuck shop’ snacks (44 per cent) and unhealthy canteen food (38 per cent) were said to be the third and fourth biggest factors behind the assertion.

“The government estimates obesity contributes to the loss of 16 million certified incapacity days each year(1) and this research suggests employers may be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution,” said Mike Blake, Director at Willis PMI Group.

“The findings call for businesses to review their existing workplace cultures and practices and, where appropriate, proactively adopt health and wellbeing initiatives.”

Younger workers were more critical of their employers than their older colleagues. Forty-two per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds blamed their bosses for contributing to higher levels of obesity, compared with just 29 per cent of 35 to 64-year-olds.

The study revealed that only 15 per cent of employers currently offer cut-price gym memberships, 13 per cent offer on-site gym facilities, 10 per cent offer fitness classes and just six per cent offer dedicated weight-loss schemes.

Blake added: “Support and education for employees to combat obesity can be relatively inexpensive to implement, but by encouraging staff to lead healthier lifestyles businesses can help cut obesity-related illnesses and the associated business risks.”

(1) House of Commons Health Select Committee report on obesity, 2004

The research was conducted among 1,197 adults, aged 18-64, 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.