Obesity can’t be ignored at work: Experts

Three reports call for greater employer intervention
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/02/2009

Obesity rates are rising and employers should be concerned. There is a growing link between weight gain and sedentary jobs, and the side effects are considerable: higher absenteeism, health-care costs, disability claims and risk of occupational accidents, along with reduced productivity and weight discrimination.

That’s the overall message in three reports that looked at obesity in the workplace — from Statistics Canada; the Institute of Preventive Medicine, Environmental and Occupational Health in Athens; and Michigan State University — that are strongly encouraging greater employer involvement.

Most employers are still “on the difficult-to-measure, nice-to-have but questionable-impact end of wellness,” said Denise Balch, president of Connex Health in Burlington, Ont. That’s because they don’t understand how to do anything meaningful or how to measure it, she said.