Ill-thought-out | Some firms offer no health or wellbeing support to prevent staff sickness

Some firms offer no health or wellbeing support to prevent staff sickness

Nearly one in five employers offer no health & wellbeing support to prevent ill health, a new study has found.

Research revealed today by GRiD, the industry body for the group risk industry, shows that although many employers are embracing the benefits of offering employees preventative health and wellbeing support, there is still work to be done, with 18% of employers not offering any support for prevention.

GRiD asked employers what health and wellbeing support they offer their employees to prevent ill health:

Flexible working initiatives were the most popular option, offered by nearly a third (30%) of employers. Emotional support, such as counselling, came next, offered by a quarter of employers (25%). Then it was occupational health (20%), mental health first aiders (19%), access to an employee assistance programme (17%), initiatives to help staff manage stress and mental health, (16%), and discounted gym, cycle, fitness (16%). These were all followed by support for staff with caring responsibilities, lifestyle support, physiotherapy, and access to private medical insurance (PMI), all offered by 15% of employers.

However, no preventative measures at all are offered by 18% of employers.

Abundant support available

There is a wealth of support within health and wellbeing benefits that aims to help prevent ill health. Gone are the days when all that was offered was fast-track access for certain treatment if needed. Employers, and the health and wellbeing industry, now have a much greater understanding of the importance of prevention, but there is still a way to go before everyone embraces the options.

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Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: “Preventative care is now a big part of health and wellbeing support. There are a great many options available to employers, including within group risk benefits (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness benefits) and it is really good to see so many employers utilising this. It can be incredibly time-intensive and costly for employers to source and offer each area of support individually, and we would encourage employers to look at just how much support is available within other benefits. It’s often a case of making the most of what you already have.”

Focus on mental health

The research shows an emphasis towards supporting mental health that has perhaps not been so prevalent in the past. Counselling, stress management, and mental health initiatives all rank highly in the support being offered by employers. This indicates an increased understanding of the impact mental health can have on employees’ overall wellbeing.

Katharine Moxham explains: “Employers generally now have a much better understanding of taking an all-encompassing approach to preventative care. And, indeed, of preventative care itself. It is far easier to support an employee to help prevent them from becoming unwell in the first place than having to help them get back on their feet after an illness.”

Wider support

Employee benefits, including group risk are about so much more than a pay-out if an employee cannot work, is critically ill, or dies. The additional support available can be of huge value to the employee and employer alike. At its best, providers, advisers and employers all work together to look at reasons for absence, and the specific needs of a workforce, so they can put in place preventative and early intervention measures. Support can include access to mental health specialists and physiotherapists, as well as advice on nutrition and lifestyle – all designed to prevent ill-health in the first place.

Differentiating employers

While many employers are on board with the benefits of preventative care there is still plenty of untapped resource. Offering wider health and wellbeing support helps to keep employees at work, it’s a great tool to manage absence, and it’s a key differentiator from competitors: and that’s a great support for recruiting and retaining talent.

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