Essex & Suffolk Water’s health drive sees business boost

A WATER and sewage firm which adopted a workforce health drive after estimating sickness absence was costing it �1million a year says it has seen a marked drop in absenteeism and staff turnover.

Essex & Suffolk Water, part of Northumbrian Water Ltd, says absences have fallen by 3.10% between 2010 and 2011 and 3% in 2012 among its 3,000 staff after it developed a Workwell programme with advice from physiotherapists, phone access to an occupational health nurse for employees suffering health problems and stress counselling.

A third of the company’s workforce is over 50 years old, and 70% are male. The company focused on its two biggest causes of sickness absence - musculoskeletal disorders and stress/mental health - which were directly costing the business more than �1 million a year.

Its Workwell programme was developed to prevent problems and address current ones before they escalated further, and was made available to all, regardless of the cause of the problem or whether they were off work.

The firm says it has seen a 13% reduction in stress-related absence between 2010 and 2011, and during the first three years to March 2011 a 40% decrease in musculoskeletal-related absence. Staff turnover is now below 5% compared to the industry average of 9.4%

The company serves a population of 2.7 million people in the northeast of England along with 1.8 million in the southeast, where it trades as Essex & Suffolk Water.

In April 2012, Business in the Community in the East of England launched Business Action on Public Health, which helps employers take a proactive approach to staff health and wellbeing.

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A free networking event for businesses from Essex which takes on September 12 will offer advice about how to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace. It will be making the business case for workplace health and provide best-practice advice and guidance from local employers and NHS providers.

To book a place visit contact Polly Williams on 07843 336 486 or email

Simon Burns MP, MP for Chelmsford and Minister of State for Health, said: “Employers have a role to play in promoting and supporting healthy choices.”