Health Sec calls on employers to offer perks to 'help health of nation'

Health Sec calls on employers to offer perks to 'help health of nation'

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has urged companies to offer healthy work perks such as bike loans, free fruit and counselling services to encourage employee wellbeing – The Telegraph reports.

The initiative - which was launched on Monday - calls on employers to do more to “help the health of their staff and nation”. Hancock says that it will additionally alleviate squeezed pressures on the NHS if workforces are healthier.

Hancock added in an interview with The Telegraph that firms should up the ante when it comes to helping ill employees return to work. The initiative was inspired by a Cornish firm who implemented a similar employee welllbeing model,which tackled workplace problems through healthy eating and exercise.

Zofia Bajorek, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, says exclusively to HR Grapevine that implementing preventative measures like these are a step in the right direction. She explains:

“Employers have a role to play in this, but more needs to be done to effectively promote both the implementation and uptake of wellbeing initiatives.”

And, to weigh up the extent of the problem, Bajorek says that an analysis of employee needs is important. “Those who are most likely to take up an organisation’s offer of fruit and exercise are those who already understand the importance of their own health and wellbeing. It is therefore important that any wellbeing initiatives put in place reach all staff," she adds.

Hancock said that he was also “attracted to the model in the Netherlands where employers have more of a role in working with employees who are off sick”.

Additionally, the Health Secretary urged companies to take notice of the military’s rehabilitation of wounded soldiers - which currently has an 85% return to work rate.

Georgia Portwain, Culture & Engagement Strategist at O.C. Tanner Europe, exclusively tells HR Grapevine that working cultures are centred around employee perks and, although these ‘pick me ups’ may temporarily be a solution, they will not be effective in the long-term.

Portwain explains that “the answer to a healthier workforce is to have wellbeing at the very heart of the company and to foster an engaging, positive culture”.

She adds: "The organisation must see its people as a priority, train its leaders to support and appreciate their teams, promote good work-life integration, take steps to help employees to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion and foster happiness both inside and outside of work.”

Additionally, employers should discourage long working hours, be insistent on regular breaks and dissuade emails outside of work hours.

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This initiative may be a welcome step in the right direction, but Steven Cameron, Pensions Director at Aegon, says that employers need to boost measures that consider employee financial health. He says exclusively to HR Grapevine: “Money worries affect workers across all pay scales, and we must encourage and equip employers to support their workers here alongside physical and mental wellbeing.

“Very few employers consider the impact of an employee’s financial health on their ability to do their job properly and productively. Those who do often lack the support to know what they can do and how they can best help,” he concludes.

Image credit: Richter Frank-Jurgen via Flickr

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