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PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has advocated a bigger role for employers in encouraging a healthy lifestyle among workers.
Speaking to FMT, MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said employers should consider setting health-related key performance indicators that would help them decide which workers to promote to higher positions.
He was commenting on the revelation made by the Social Security Organisation (Socso) that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a major cause of death among employees under the age of 60. Socso said more than 6,500 such cases were reported last year. It also said more than 14,000 became disabled as a result of NCDs.
The four main NCD types are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and respiratory ailments such as asthma.
Shamsuddin noted a police statement last year regarding overweight policemen. It said 1,000 overweight policemen were at risk of losing their chances for promotion. They were given one year to slim down.
“This is something private sector employers can consider, though some workers may see this as punishment or a negative approach,” Shamsuddin said.
“Perhaps a more positive approach would be for employers to reward health-conscious staff with prizes or other non-work related incentives.”
He recommended that employers set up gymnasiums at the workplace or opt for cheaper alternatives such as subsidising the purchase of exercise equipment and sponsoring sporting activities.
He said the government could help by giving tax breaks to companies that provide gyms at the workplace.
He also urged employers to conduct health screenings for their workers at least once every two years. “Sadly,” he said, “this isn’t our culture yet, among both employers and employees. Just look at the poor response to Socso’s free health screenings.”
Last February, it was reported that only 450,000 out of 2.1 million Socso members had used vouchers given to them for free screenings.
Shamsuddin also spoke about the unhealthy food served in many office canteens. He urged companies that have canteens at the workplace to serve healthy food. “We really have to be more proactive rather than reactive and focus on preventive measures,” he said.
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