Almost 9 in 10 workers have worked while sick, 3 in 10 against the advice of their GP — new Mater Private report

Published Monday, January 20th, 2020 at 11:59 am

‘Healthy Working’ report shows how diet, exercise, and work-life balance affect Irish workers’ physical and mental health.

Irish workers spend less than the price of a cup of coffee per day on their personal health and wellbeing, according to a new report published today by the Mater Private Healthcare Group.*

‘Healthy Working’, a report that analyses how diet, exercise, and work-life balance affect Irish workers’ physical and mental health, shows that the Irish workforce are slow to spend on their personal health and wellbeing, and even slower to heed medical guidance, with almost three in ten (27%) continuing to work while sick against the advice of their GP.

Personal health and wellbeing

In general, the majority (85%) of Irish workers have a relatively healthy lifestyle.

However, the report’s findings suggest that workers are not as healthy as they believe. 50% of workers say that their job impedes their ability to take exercise, and one in every four workers skips breakfast every day.

Of the 15% who admitted to having an unhealthy lifestyle, 68% considered themselves unfit, 54% eat unhealthily, 18% claim to drink heavily, and 35% smoke.

When it comes to keeping an eye on their personal health, just 45% of workers go to their GP for a yearly or more frequent check-up. Over half (55%) only go to the GP when they have a specific health complaint. 

Employer/worker disconnect

Research shows a distinct disconnect between employer’s expectations and their workers when they attempt to strike a balance between work and a personal life.

18% of workers claim to have a poor work-life balance. Of those with a poor work-life balance, almost half (46%) work outside normal hours, over half (57%) say that they are constantly thinking about work, even on days off, and 21% say that they are ‘always on’ and available to their employer.

Despite being offered a minimum of 20 days annual leave per year, almost 20% of employees do not take their full allocation. Of those who don’t, over one third (34%) say they are afraid their workload will increase and another third (34%) claim that there is no one to manage their workload while away.

However, some employers recognise that worker wellbeing is important: 3 in 4 invest in health and wellness perks for their teams.

These include benefits like flexible working (34%) and on-site exercise classes (7%), with some employers (7%) even providing access to massage or other holistic treatments.

When it comes to lunch, 81% of employers provide eating facilities on-site, with 53% offering an in-house catering option for workers.

Mater Private Healthy Working Report


Commenting on the report’s findings, Ms. Mary Morrogh, Consultant General Surgeon, Breast Surgeon & Medical Director of the Mater Private Wellness Programme:

 “We sometimes forget that we are responsible for managing our own health and that how healthy we are depends on the actions, both big and small, that we take every day.

“People tend to assume that their health only requires attention when they have a new or longstanding medical complaint. Even then, a significant proportion of the workforce will compromise their health by making poor choices, such as delaying presentation to their doctor, or not heeding the advice given by the GP. This must change.

“Employers have a significant role to play in helping their workers to maintain optimal health by introducing workplace benefits like healthy lunches, on-site employee health checks or perhaps even subsidised health insurance. By doing so, they are ensuring their workforce remains healthy, motivated, and performing well.”

Caroline Whelan, Chief Operating Officer of the Mater Private Healthcare Group said:

 “The Healthy Working report shows a need for employers to really put health and wellbeing at the very core of their workplace culture and move beyond token gestures. The benefits of healthy snacks and on-site exercise classes are negated if a worker is in a constant state of stress.

“Truly valuing an employee’s long-term physical and mental health not only creates sustainable results for a business—it ensures employee satisfaction, loyalty, and goodwill.”

The research was carried out on behalf of Mater Private Healthcare Group by Core Research among 500 adults. 

Healthy Working report

Read the Healthy Working report in full