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Top 20% of healthiest SA employers have close to half the absenteeism rates of the unhealthiest 20%

Press release -

Top 20% of healthiest SA employers have close to half the absenteeism rates of the unhealthiest 20%

November 2014

The 2014 Healthy Company Index, hosted by Discovery Vitality, indicated that healthier companies show lower absenteeism rates and more productivity levels than their unhealthier competitors.

Top honours were taken by Vital Health Foods, Johnson Matthey SA, and Hatch Goba (PTY) Ltd in the small, medium, and large categories of the 2014 Healthy Company Index Awards, hosted by Discovery Vitality. The official rankings, as well as the overall results of the Healthy Company Index survey, were revealed at an awards ceremony where winning companies were recognised for best practice in health promotion initiatives in corporate South Africa.

“We have moved beyond the point of defining return-on-investment and impact on absenteeism and prioritising the health of our workforce is good for business and critical for society,” says Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness. “A trend that emerged from the 2014 date is that we’re seeing a significant shift in how employee health is viewed by companies globally – there is increasing focus on improving and managing health and wellbeing, and how this is affecting their bottom line,” he adds. According to Dr Nossel, this is largely due to the worsening and alarming general state of health around the world, in particular with chronic diseases of lifestyle.

The risks of chronic diseases of lifestyle – including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory conditions, and certain cancers – play a significant role in employee illness and absenteeism – as well as reduced levels of workplace morale, engagement, and productivity. Research has shown, though, that these diseases of lifestyle can be largely mitigated through tailored interventions to promote a healthier diet, increased levels of physical activity, and regular health checks. Since people spend a great deal of their lives at work, and work significantly impacts stress and lifestyle, employers have a unique opportunity to positively influence their employees’ ability to make healthy choices and help them to manage stress and reduce illness.

This year, Discovery partnered with the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe who have offered a global perspective on corporate wellness. Christian van Stolk, Director of Employment and Social Policy at RAND Europe, notes that, “The Healthy Company Index provides employers with critical information on the health and well-being of employees. Successful wellness initiatives are those that encourage a culture of health in the workplace and motivate individuals to take control of their own health. As a consequence, there is a strong business case for companies to look at health and well-being more closely and invest in improving employee health. ”

The results of the 2014 Discovery Healthy Company Index showed that there are some important improvements in employee health. The average Vitality Age, for example, a measurement of health risk-related age, was 5.8 years older than the average real age in this year’s results compared to 6.4 years older in 2012. “Although still not ideal,” says van Stolk, “It indicates that people are more physically active, are managing stress better, and have a lower smoking rate now than two years prior.”

“The Healthy Company Index showed that South Africans suffer an 11.4% loss in working days due to suboptimal health, which equates to 25 working days per employee,” adds van Stolk, “When compared to the UK, SA employers have a 2.3% higher productivity loss rate due to employees being unhealthier and taking more sick days.”

Based on this year’s Index results, recommendations for a healthier workplace include implementing canteens that offer healthy, affordable food and drinks that are subsidised where possible. In addition, having flexible work hours to allow employees to be active before or after work and recruiting health ambassadors or advocates to champion corporate wellness goals will help an organisation to lead the way when it comes to the health and wellbeing of their staff.

The winning companies in the 2014 Discovery Healthy Company Index:

Healthiest employees winners – small, medium, and large categories

- Small: Open Box Software

- Medium: Ogilvy and Mather Cape Town

- Large: Ernst and Young

Healthiest workplace winners – small, medium, and large categories

- Small: Vital Health Foods

- Medium: Johnson Matthey S.A.

- Large: OUTsurance

Healthiest company winners – small, medium, and large categories

- Small: Vital Health Foods

- Medium: Johnson Matthey S.A.

- Large: Hatch Goba (PTY) Ltd

“We look forward to our ongoing role in encouraging behaviour change of large sections of the population through these types of initiatives and encourage all companies to be part of the next Discovery Healthy Company Index,” Dr Nossel concludes.


67 companies participated in the 2014 survey with health information from 14 460 employees across South Africa. Of the respondents, 61.6% were women and 38.4% were men and most survey participants were aged between 18 and 40.

The Discovery Healthy Company Index was first launched in 2011 and has grown in stature with rollout to employers in Britain through Britain’s Healthiest Company.

Small business: 50 to 249 employees

Medium business: 250 to 999 employees

Large business: 1 000 to 50 000 employees



Discovery information

About Discovery Limited

Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment products and wellness markets. Founded in 1992 by the current Group Chief Executive Officer Adrian Gore, Discovery was guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. Underpinning this core purpose is the belief that through innovation Discovery can be a powerful market disruptor.

The company, with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, has expanded its operations globally and currently serves over seven million clients across South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and Singapore. Vitality, Discovery’s wellness programme, is the world’s largest scientific, incentive-based wellness solution for individuals and corporates. The global Vitality membership base now exceeds 5.5 million lives in five markets.

Discovery is an authorised financial services provider. It trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange under the code “DSY”. 

Follow us on Twitter @Discovery_SA

Press contacts

Felicity Hudson

Felicity Hudson

Press contact Head of Reputation Management Discovery Group 0115294514
Nthabiseng Chapeshamano

Nthabiseng Chapeshamano

Press contact Senior Reputation Manager Healthcare, Long & Short Term Insurance, and Sustainability
Zeenat Moorad

Zeenat Moorad

Press contact Senior Reputation Manager Banking | Vitality | Sponsorships
Karishma Jivan

Karishma Jivan

Press contact Reputation Consultant Healthcare & Sustainability
Sesona Ngqakamba

Sesona Ngqakamba

Press contact Reputation Management Consultant Banking | Vitality | Sponsorships
Lianne Osterberger

Lianne Osterberger

Press contact Special Projects: Reputation Management 083 27 27 313