British employers spend an average of just £97 a year, or less than 30p a day, on the health and wellbeing of each of their employees, a new survey has suggested.
The study by private medical insurer PruHealth, found that, in total, business spend £2.4 billion on company-paid healthcare.
But this far outweighed by the estimated £12.2 billion, or £495 per employee, cost of absenteeism suffered by the UK economy in 2004.
Perhaps more encouraging, though, is the finding that more than 75 per cent of HR directors in Britain's larger firms now recognise that employee health and wellness is strongly linked to productivity and staff morale.
Shaun Matisonn, PruHealth chief executive, said: "A large number of businesses are still in denial about the benefits of a healthy workforce. Many claim that employee health and wellbeing is a key business issue but sadly in many instances it looks more like empty rhetoric."
Seven out of 10 of the firms polled said had a company culture in which staff were encouraged to make efforts to manage their health effectively, and 44 per cent claimed that offering a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits was now the norm in their sector.
More than 40 per cent conceded that improvements to the range of health benefits offered to staff were in recognition of the stressful working environment and long hours rather than a drive to change health behaviours.
Four out of 10 offered free or subsidised health screenings, 30 per cent stress management education and 36 per cent healthy meal options in the staff restaurant or canteen.
A total of 37 per cent offered flexible working to allow for physical activity, 27 per cent provided on-site doctors or other clinicians, 23 per cent offered access to therapists and 10 per cent offered free or subsidised smoking cessation sessions.
Some employers, however, admitted to failing to monitor staff participation in their health programmes, with a third saying they did not know how many of their employees were taking part in health and wellness schemes.
Matisonn added: "Changing people's habits is the key challenge and it's here where employers can play a more pro-active role."