Wales could save billions of pounds a year through investing in a healthier workforce

A new report by the Centre for Health Economics and Medicines Evaluation (CHEME), Bangor University has brought together evidence of the economic arguments for investing in the health and wellbeing of the workforce in Wales.

The lead author of the ‘Wellness in work’ report, Professor Rhiannon Tudor Edwards explains that:

“We found strong evidence that supporting workplace health and having a diverse and inclusive workforce can boost the Welsh economy. The Welsh economy is still losing out however because of preventable health issues and unhealthy behaviours leading to workers being absent or unproductive at work. In this report we bring together evidence about the cost-effectiveness of programmes to improve and protect the health and wellbeing of employees and the potential return on investment of workplace interventions.”

The report highlights the high cost of productivity losses in Wales due to addiction and health harming habits and its impact on employment. This includes the cost of alcohol misuse at around £500million per year. Gambling addiction costs the Welsh Government between £2million and £8million from lost tax revenue due to sickness absence, presenteeism and unemployment per year. Over a year, smoking breaks cost businesses in Wales £2k for every smoker per year in lost productivity.

Workplace interventions to support thriving and prevent ill health can generate a positive return on investment for employers in Wales. Interventions to prevent back pain and other muscular pain (e.g. workplace yoga), can be cost effective and can help employers in Wales keep their workforce healthy. For example, for every £1 spent on yoga there is an estimated £10 generated in societal benefit largely due to increased productivity at work.

Staff mental health and wellbeing is an important factor in workplace productivity. Mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and stress affect one in six workers in Wales and impact on people’s ability to work. This costs the Welsh Government over £1billion every year from costs including out of work benefits and lost tax revenue. The Welsh economy suffers with nearly £5billion lost every year. Businesses incur high costs due to absenteeism and presenteeism (the measureable extent to which health symptoms, conditions and diseases adversely affect the work productivity of individuals who choose to remain at work) which may be unaffordable for many of the small businesses in Wales.

Collating the latest economic evidence, the report estimates that economic inclusion benefits the economy, with every person moving from unemployment into sustainable work adding around £10K per year to the local economy rising to £24K to Wales as a whole. Moving approximately 10% of people from unemployment to sustainable work in Wales could generate an additional £2billion in society over the next five years.

The report highlights that family friendly work policies can have a positive impact on both employees and employers, as many employees have caring responsibilities for children, parents and other family members. Employers that implement policies such as workplace nurseries have much lower rates of voluntary resignations and absenteeism. The principles of co-production underpin the idea that the employer and employee should share responsibility for enabling a healthy workforce across Wales.

Wales has a strong policy agenda highlighting the need for appropriate education and skills development, a diverse and inclusive workforce and a focus on illness prevention in order to secure an economy which will generate wealth and provide good employment opportunities for future generations.

Wellness in Work Report 2019:

Technical Appendix - Wellness in Work 2019 -


Publication date: 17 October 2019