Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, and the action I am seeking from her is that she consider ways that we can enable and encourage employers to allow employees to use a sick day to have a health day. This was raised by one of my constituents, who gave me some interesting figures, although they are national. Preventable illness among the Australian workforce costs the economy tens of billions of dollars each year. This includes presenteeism — working while sick. Bupa said in a 2017 study that presenteeism costs $34 billion, replacing a skilled staff member costs $20 000 to $50 000, lack of sleep costs $3 billion and oral disease costs $2 billion. Preventable illnesses cause more than three-quarters of all ill health and premature deaths, yet over 3 million Australians have not visited a general practitioner in the last 12 months.
Victoria has had great success with public awareness campaigns around health issues in the past, and what I am seeking is that we now call for and raise public action. What we want to do is encourage employers to allow their employees to use one of their statutory annual sick days to proactively see their GP or get some form of health check, whether it is a breast or prostate check or going to the dentist, and as a reward employees get the rest of the day off. My very imaginative constituent said, Previous Document’ChuckNext Hit a healthie — visit your GP, then go and have a fully sick day’.
Mrs Peulich — And the taxpayer pays.
Ms PATTEN — I am going to take up Mrs Peulich’s interjection. Look at the costs I just raised — we are paying over $10 billion now on preventable illnesses. We want to encourage employers to allow their employees to use one of their sick days to have a health day — to visit their doctor, to prevent unnecessary illnesses, to keep our workforce healthier and to keep them working. So I ask the minister to investigate ways that we can ‘chuck a healthie’.
The Andrews Labor Government recognises the important role that employers can play in the health of their workers. Being a health conscious workplace makes good business sense, and employers that actively support their workers’ health and wellbeing reap significant returns in terms of work performance and productivity.
Through the Department of Health and Human Services, the government is supporting programs like the Achievement Program and the Healthy Eating Advisory Service. These programs support Victorian businesses to improve the health of their workforce, by making the healthy choice the easy choice for employees.
The department is also working closely with the WorkHealth program, which is leading new investment in workplace mental health, and exploring innovative ways to improve mental health, safety and wellbeing.