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Malaysian employers whip workers into shape


KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian employers, who are footing medical bills of nearly 1.5 billion ringgit (US$368.2 million) yearly, are measuring more than just Key Performance Indicators (KPI) these days. They are shaping their staff to become leaner and meaner.

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The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has estimated that companies paid 1.18 billion ringgit in medical costs for hospitalised employees and another 46.3 million ringgit in non-hospitalisation costs for a workforce of about 6.6 million.
 
The calculations came about from a survey it conducted last year on medical benefits and “man-days lost” in 2014.
 
Thus, companies are looking beyond just providing a gym for their staff.
 
Besides introducing wellness programmes, they also dangle monetary rewards to entice staff to keep fit.
 
One company even gave its staff free dental ­products to encourage proper teeth brushing.
 
As for employees at Westports Malaysia, they went through a compulsory health check-up and were later “colour-coded”.
 
“The results were translated into three groups that indicated their health: green for good, amber for moderate health, and red for high-risk employees. Those in the red and amber categories had to attend nine mandatory gym sessions a month,” said Rosli Kamaruddin, president of Westports’ joint consultative council.
 
This came under its Health Passport programmes, which were introduced in 2011 and 2014.
 
“All employees underwent a health examination which checked body mass index (BMI), cholesterol and sugar levels, waist-hip ratio, and blood pressure,” he said.
 
“In 2011, we screened 3,072 employees, of whom 8 per cent were in the red category. After six months of attending the gym sessions etc, a re-test was done and the red category fell to less than 5 per cent.”
 
“The response has been encouraging. We plan to run this programme every two years,” he added.
 
The company also introduced the Mr Westports and Mr Body Smart competition in December last year.
 
The winners in both categories received 500 ringgit each, second prize was 300 ringgit and the third place winners got 200 ringgit.
 
Penang-based Raviraj Sdn Bhd implemented a [email protected] programme in 2013.
 
“We saw the company medical bills going up, employees were becoming lethargic and the number of sick leave days was increasing,” said CEO of Raviraj S.K. Sundram.
 
[email protected] is a four-month voluntary programme which includes physical and motivational exercises, offering monetary rewards and paid leave days.
 
Results are measured in terms of attendance and participation, as well as reduction in BMI, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
 
“That means a reduction of blood sugar and cholesterol levels by about 20 per cent, and a BMI reduction of about 10 per cent,” said Sundram.
 
“We also look at MC records and punctuality,” he added.
 
“In the future, we will also look at participation and achievement in the programme during overall appraisals, which will affect increments and promotions,” said Sundram.
 
Maxis Bhd introduced its #FitterFasterStronger programme last year.
 
“Our annual eight-week challenge encourages employees to lose weight.
 
“The ‘biggest losers’ are given cash prizes for their efforts,” said Adzhar Ibrahim, its Head of People and Organisation.
 
“When we first introduced this programme, the company as a whole shed close to 700kg over eight weeks!” he said.
 
He said that the average number of hospitalisation days and sick leave taken by employees had also fallen since the programme began.
 
“Over 90 per cent of our employees were very happy with the programme and wanted it to continue,” he said.
 
For PKT Logistics Group, a well-equipped gym has always been a prominent feature.
 
“We started the Gymax Idols contest, from 2011 to 2014 – a cross between American Idol and The Biggest Loser,” said its CEO Michael Tio.
 
Based on attendance in the gym over six months, one monthly Gymax Idol was selected.
 
The six finalists were entered into a draw to win an overseas trip for two, including a monetary allowance.
 
The PKT LifeFitness Programme logs employee workout hours and rewards them with silver, gold or platinum status. These come with various privileges like monthly meal allowances.
 
PKT also tracks the number of staff who do not take medical leave for the whole year.
 
“We have seen an improvement over three years. In 2013, that was 27.9 per cent, while 2014 saw 30.4 per cent of staff taking no medical leave. Last year, it was 31.4 per cent,” said Tio.
 
“Our employees have told us that health is one of the key motivating factors for them to give their best to the company,” said Tio.
 
(US$1 = 4.05 ringgit)
 

Published : March 21, 2016

By : Suzanne Lazaroo The Star