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Shivani Vassen | How health risk managers support employers

Shivani Vassen | How health risk managers support employers
21-04-23 / Shivani Vassen

Shivani Vassen | How health risk managers support employers

Health risk managers are becoming increasingly valuable to companies across South Africa, especially after the pandemic. They identify, assess and implement strategies to mitigate health risks in the workplace to reduce the impact of absenteeism, disability and incapacity on a company’s profitability and productivity.

Companies need to consider the following health risks:

  1. Absenteeism

According to the Adcorp Employment Index, absenteeism cost the South African economy an estimated R12 to R16 billion in 2019, with an absenteeism rate of 4.4%. Absenteeism can be caused by:

  • illness (both mental and physical)
  • injury
  • burnout
  • organisational changes

Statistics within Alexforbes Health Management Solutions reveal that the sick absenteeism rate dropped drastically during the pandemic, resulting in a decreased use of sick leave with most employees working from home. In 2017, the absenteeism rate was 2.16% – the highest of the past six years. In 2020 it was 1.57%, which continued to rise to 2.03% in 2022, as office work resumed.

These statistics reflect the trend of absenteeism in the larger world, making the implementation of risk policies and the skills of health risk managers increasingly essential.

  1. Incapacity and disability

This refers to an employee’s inability to perform their job due to illness or injury. According to the South African Labour Guide, employers have a legal obligation to accommodate employees if required. A health risk manager can assist employers to identify the needs of their employees and implement measures to accommodate them in the workplace or provide advice on suitable alternative occupations. Ergonomic adjustments to workstations or comprehensive occupational therapy assessments may also be recommended and pursued, depending on the specific needs of the employee.

It is therefore essential to have policies in place to:

  • safeguard employees’ physical and psychological wellbeing
  • help employees succeed
  • reduce healthcare costs
  • increase productivity

The emergence of Long Covid has ignited the need for companies to have policies in place to support employees who may be suffering from long-term and varied health effects of Covid-19. Additionally, the widespread shift to working from home has created new health risks, such as poor ergonomics, and social isolation, with the start of hybrid work creating its own barriers to productivity. A health risk manager can use policies to help companies identify and mitigate these risks, ensuring that employees remain content, healthy and productive members of society.

In conclusion, companies need to look strategically at the health and wellbeing of their employees. Together with policies, health risk managers can support employers and ensure an integrated approach to risk management in the workplace.

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