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Only 4% of staff would approach their boss with a health concern

David Woods , 18 Aug 2010

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Most UK employees would rather suffer in silence with a health concern or personal issue than tell their boss or colleagues, according to new research from Aviva UK Health.

According to the Aviva Health of the Workplace 4 Study, only 4% of employees say they would approach their boss with a health concern. A further 5% claim they might confide in a colleague. Just 1% said they would trust their problems to the HR department. By comparison 60% say they would unburden themselves to their partner and 33% would speak to the family doctor.

Although nearly a quarter of employees (23%) state this is just a matter of safeguarding their privacy, the research portrays a worrying distance between employer and employee where 21% of employees think admitting to health concerns could affect their work prospects and 11% claim they simply don’t trust their boss. 

Employers, by contrast, are convinced that they are doing all they can to nip potential problems in the bud; 39% claim to make a point of identifying any employee issues; and 42% say they operate an open door policy. But, while employers do seem to be taking positive steps to tackle health issues through the introduction of benefits such as private health insurance, group income protection and confidential helplines, they are doing little to communicate that the support services are available and the worrying employee responses suggest that their efforts may still be falling wide of the mark. 

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Doug Wright, principal clinical consultant at Aviva UK Health, said: "It’s good to see that employers recognise the importance of having an open door policy when it comes to their employees’ health and wellbeing, but we want to make them aware of the worrying disconnect between their perception and the reality to help them take steps to tackle the issues. 

"The breakdown in communication between employers and their staff means that health risks such as stress in the workplace are not being effectively managed. Lack of employee engagement will also hinder an employer’s ability to intervene early and offer their employees the right support at the right time.

"With the help of providers such as Aviva, employers can start to break down these communication barriers by ensuring they have specialist support networks and services in place for their employees."

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