Absenteeism and presenteeism costs UK workplaces up to £23 billion per year

Absenteeism and presenteeism costs UK workplaces up to £23 billion per year

02 June 2016

Absenteeism and presenteeism* is costing UK employers up to £23 billion per year, according to the British Dietetic Association’s Work Ready Programme Whitepaper, highlighting the importance of investing in workplace health.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA), founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,500 members. 

To emphasise the importance of workplace health, the BDA is this year theming their annual Dietitians Week around the value of good nutrition and hydration practices at work. Dietitians Week 2016 is taking place from Monday 6 June to Friday 10 June.

Maintaining a healthy weight has been shown to reduce productivity losses – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimated that an average London business lost £126,000 per year on weight-related issues like back problems. Positive steps such as protecting lunch hours and ensuring employees are well hydrated throughout the working day has been shown to improve productivity and reduce the number of days lost to sickness.

The Dietitians Week event will see the BDA visit the House of Lords in Westminster and a trip to County Hall in Cardiff to encourage decision makers to promote healthier workplaces. The public will also be encouraged to take part through social media activities focusing on various aspects of workplace health including protecting your lunch hour, healthy meetings, hydration, food and mood, and physical activity.

“Dietitians Week has been a great tool to promote important public health messages and the work that dietitians do in relation to these issues,” said Andy Burman, BDA Chief Executive Officer.

“With so many barriers for workers to a healthy life including working irregular shifts, poor options for food within canteens/vending machines, and feeling stressed, it is important that employers take the time to consider their employees’ health, which is why this year’s Dietitians Week focuses on workplace health.

“Full time workers spend as much as 60% of their waking hours at work, so it is extremely important for employers to support their employees in a healthy life, to ensure overall health for the public, which can also benefit the organisation in terms of productivity.”

In November 2015, the BDA launched their Work Ready Programme (WRP). The programme offers bespoke nutritional and wellness services tailored to employers’ needs, to be delivered by dietitians to the organisation and its employees. The aim of the programme is to help improve the health of UK workers whilst assisting in a reduction of absenteeism and presenteeism related to health problems.

The BDA’s Work Ready Programme Whitepaper outlined that organisations have previously benefited from work-based health programmes like this. For example in 2012, Merseyrail invested in a dietitian-led tailored intervention for 50 staff which saved £11,000 in sickness absence costs.

 “A ‘pick and mix approach’ affords businesses the opportunity to choose the level of support that they need as required,” said Fiona McCullough, BDA Honorary Chairman.

“Whether it is a full dietitian-led intervention or elements of the Work Ready Programme to be combined with existing services, employers can be sure that they are receiving a quality assured service, soundly based in scientific research and principles, provided by dietitians, specifically trained in workplace nutrition.

“Over half of people with a long-term condition say that their health is a barrier to the type or amount of work they can do, rising to over 80% when someone has three or more conditions, so experts who commission employee wellbeing programmes are increasingly looking for solutions which target this issue, and this WRP does just that.”

The full programme includes a workplace health needs assessment, and many useful tools and resources for employees to use.

Find out more about Dietitians Week

Read more information about the Work Ready Programme.

See the full BDA Work Ready Programme Whitepaper.

*Presenteeism refers to workers attending their place of employment whilst unwell which can lead to productivity losses.


For more information / interview requests, please contact the BDA Press Office on:

0800 048 1714


Notes to the Editor:

  • Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
  • Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.
  • BelVita Breakfast, are providing funding and their insights and consumer expertise to support the Work Ready Programme.



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