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Poor health can devastate SMES


Alain Thériault

September 18, 2018 07:00

Photo : Freepik

The poor health in the workplace may cause the loss of a small business, not only because of the cost of group insurance, but also indirect costs that lurk behind.

“Investing in prevention is more cost-effective than you think ! “insisted dr. Mario Messier, scientific director of Group enterprises in health (GES). During the Symposium in group insurance organized in Montreal in April by Segic, Mr. Messier indicated that, according to Health Canada, the health promotion in the workplace, reports of $ 2.75 to $ 4 per dollar invested.

Mr. Messier has also recalled that the costs of ill health in the workplace are enormous. “It is an elephant in the room ! “

He adds that companies need to see it globally rather than tackle the problems in the room. “Employees and employers can act. They have an interest to do so. What works, it is a structured approach of prevention based on best practices. “

Visible Face of ill-health, group insurance, absenteeism and workplace accidents are, according to him, the tip of the iceberg. “Poor health costs $ 1,500 to $ 4,000 per employee annually. It represents 5% to 10 % of payroll. And it goes up ! The biggest portion of cost is the portion of the expenses of medications. They are not far away to be increasing exponentially “, he launched.

With an impact both on the group insurance and the company’s productivity, absenteeism tear in an average 9.3 days of work per year for a canadian employee, and 10.8 days per year in Quebec, reports Mr. Messier. In addition to the insurance collective private costs of the public sector are added. The insurance against accidents at work of the standards Commission, equity, health and safety of the work (CNESST) perceived an average insurance premium (contributions) 1.77 $ per $ 100 of salary, depending on his scale of 2017, reminiscent of Mario Tessier. This cost can vary greatly depending on the unit of classification, ” he adds.

According to this scale, the contribution rate to the CNESST would have been 0.24 for each $ 100 of the salary of a worker in the office. In comparison, a roofer in the construction sector represents an extreme risk. His or her contribution rate would have reached 18,04 $ per $ 100 of salary.

A hidden face

Hidden Face of bad health, indirect costs, staff turnover and presenteeism can have consequences even more disastrous for a company.

The indirect costs can cost anywhere from 1 to 10 times more expensive that the costs are direct, according to Mr. Messier. “This is not a bill which comes to the office of the chief financial officer,” he said. If someone is absent, there are costs to direct pay. But there are also the costs of absence management and appraisals, costs of replacement workers, delays, loss of customers… there are a lot of costs. “

Mainly caused by relationship problems and stress, staff turnover can be very expensive. We do not realize it always, ” says Dr. Messier. “It can cost anywhere from 0.4 to 3 times the annual salary of the employee who is leaving. “

Presenteeism is a phenomenon by which the individual is on the premises of work, but it is neither present nor productive, because it is not well in his body or in his head, ” says Mr. Messier. “Sometimes because he is not well in his team, because he is not motivated, he spends part of his time to resolve personal problems or to surf on the Internet. Most experts tell us that this phenomenon is two to three more expensive than absenteeism. In addition, it is not easy to measure. This is a big part of the elephant. “

The largest companies can cash in a time of such charges, but what is it for smaller companies, is questioned Mario Messier ? In conjunction with the actuary Julie Cousineau, of Normandin Beaudry, Mr. Messier gave the portrait a virtual company from the average of all clients of the firm : My SME Inc. The average absence per employee is 5 days per year.

In this private company syndicated hundred people whose average age is 43 years (59 % men and 41 % women), the wage bill reached 5,79 M$ (average weekly pay of 1 165 $). However, they were estimated at 1.30 M$ the direct and indirect costs of poor health, 23% of the payroll. In this virtual company, costs direct, indirect costs and presenteeism, each representing one-third of the total. Among the costs are direct, group insurance accounted for 203 000 $.


In Canada, research from Towers Watson indicate that the problems of mental health or behavioral are the most frequent, both in the short-term disability to long-term, ” notes Mr. Tessier. Musculoskeletal disorders come in second, followed by the cancer in long-term disability, and accident short-term disability. Cardiovascular disease arrive at the 4th rank of the long-term disability.

According to the Fondation québécoise mental illness, stress and other health problems psychological account for 30 % to 40 % of the absences and 70 % of the costs, ” reports Mr. Messier. They are derived from organizational factors, but also personal factors.

A series of reports from the chief Administrator of the public health on the state of public health in Canada up to 2017 provides a portrait of shame of the workers of a typical business. It is reported that more than 60 % eat less than five fruits and vegetables per day or are overweight, 80 % are not active enough and 32 % suffer from moderate stress to high to work. In addition, 18 % use abuse alcohol and 13 % smoke.

… Solutions

That can make the work environment ? “If you look at the statistics of return on the investment programmes of health promotion in the workplace, you’ll see that they vary a lot. Not all the programs that give results. Doing things on a whim does not bear fruit. There are certain practices and conditions for it to work. A structured approach to prevention must be based on best practices, ” insists Mr. Messier.

He referred to the case of Lassonde Industries, a company of Rougemont is well known for its juice which has made a turn major health in 2000. “This company had indicators of poor health before the year 2000 : a rate of absenteeism higher than the canadian average, with a rate of CNESST higher than the industry average and labour relations are difficult,” says the scientific director of GHG.

After a few years, Lassonde has reduced its rates of absenteeism and its costs of the CNESST of 50 %. Labour relations have improved. “Lassonde has not done anything : not only the direction, but employees and the union are engaged in a structured approach “, stressed Mario Messier.


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