There are three core reasons to invest in ending workplace TB.
1. To build resilience against the current and future pandemics
2. To realise productivity gains by reduced hidden sickness in the workforce.
3. To help protect workers, their families and communities, and ultimately to save lives.
You can download the full business case by clicking on the image to the left or download the two-page version here.
In addition, working with academics we have developed a "cost of TB calculator" that will help you estimate the potential impact of TB in your company. If you are interested in working with us to learn more about the costs, contact us at
Ending Workplace TB is committed to supporting our members to improving the health, productivity, and resilience of their workforces. Our work is based on the best-available research and we want to make sure that all partners have access to that research. Below you will find the papers that back up the things we say - as well as other useful resources.
PROTECT AGAINST RISK
Headline: Research suggests that even one case of TB could result in up to 50% of your workforce being infected.
This argument is supported by three sources related to the spread of TB in the workplace, all in developed countries with high-quality healthcare and good levels of ventilation. The 50% figure is drawn from two separate studies in Taiwan and the United States. The third study relates to an investigation of a single workplace in Australia where the proportion of co-workers infected was slightly lower, but still significant.
Headline: Relatively simple, low-cost interventions have been found to reduce the spread of respiratory diseases in the workplace by 99%.
The research that underpins this claim is drawn from studies of seasonal flu. Whilst this may seem to be remote from TB, flu is much more infectious than TB and the symptoms manifest more quickly. As such, it is probable that measures that are effective for reducing the attack rate of flu in a workplace will be even more effective for TB.
The study explored several combinations of sick leave policy to find which would have the greatest benefit for the health of the workers. It found that a scenario where 90% of sick workers took sick leave almost as soon as symptoms appeared almost eliminated workplace spread of the disease. Given other research (see above and below) about the volume of cases of respiratory diseases that start in the workplace, the potential impact for a community of eliminating workplace transmission could be significant.
Headline: People who are ill with TB often lose a high number of days of work before they are diagnosed and sick people can be as much as 20% less productive.
This statement comprises two different groups of facts: the number of days of work lost by people who are sick with TB (absenteeism) and the productivity of people who are ill (presenteeism). Both draw on highly established literature, though in the case of the second statistic, there has been no direct research conducted into the productivity of people ill with undiagnosed TB. There is, however, a wealth of research about the costs of presenteeism compared to absenteeism.
Of the many studies relating to time lost from work due to TB, we present a couple here - please contact us if you wish for more details.
Time lost to work
Productivity losses due to ill health
Headline: TB is a lethal respiratory pathogen and shares many symptoms and testing procedures with COVID-19. A strong workplace health system can help protect your workforce from the impact of diseases.
There are two assertions in this statement. The former relates to the similarities between TB and COVID-19, though there are also similarities between TB and other lethal respiratory pathogens. The latter relates to the impact that a strong workplace health system can have on your workforce in the face of a respiratory pathogen.
The overlap between TB and COVID-19 has so far manifested itself in the wholesale transfer of TB resources to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic (see here). However, TB and COVID-19 also share five common core symptoms: headache, cough, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. They can also both be screened for with X-rays (as can flu) and are both diagnosed using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) such as the GeneXpert system.
As such, systems and structures that identify the symptoms of TB infection, as well as making TB screening and testing available to everyone, will pick up cases of other respiratory diseases - and through separating sick workers from healthy ones and initiating treatment, the chain of transmission can be broken. As up to 50 per cent of COVID-19 cases are spread in the workplace in some areas, the beneficial impact of a workplace health system is clear.
Headline: Workplaces with strong health benefits are attractive to employees, and healthy supply chains matter to customers and investors.
Research into employee benefits is conducted frequently and often finds healthcare as a leading benefit in nearly all markets (though the research below predominantly relates to the US market).
Consumer research during the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a lot of focus devoted to the importance consumers place on companies looking after the health of their workers. Furthermore, the large sums invested in ESG funds, and the presence of health-related metrics in common standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI 403-6) highlight the importance to investors of healthy supply chains.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Headline: Research suggests that comprehensive workplace health systems yield a net positive return on investment for companies.
The benefits for workplace health programmes can be difficult to quantify and many employers have an unclear understanding of the different costs incurred by ill workers. An incomplete list would include: sick leave, loss of productivity at work, vacancy (time to hire), retirement benefits, death and disability, medical care, recruitment, the learning curve and training of new hires. As such, it is cheaper to invest in stopping disease in the first place - and treating it when it arises - than it is to continue to bear the already inbuilt costs of an endemic disease such as TB.
Putting a precise figure on the ROI is hard as it varies so much on the health of your workforce. Malaria programmes have been found to yield a 28% ROI (see below). One company in unpublished data estimates that their HIV/TB programme has yielded a net positive impact of USD$15 per employee. And yet further research has found a positive ROI for HIV programmes in both the public and private sectors.