Health and wellbeing in the workplace

People are the lifeblood of any organisation

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jun 14, 2024

The quality of their physical health and psychological wellbeing is key to a happy, high performing workforce. Not only that, poor health can have a huge impact on productivity and prove to be a heavy cost for the business to handle.

Employee absence is one of the greatest costs associated with employing staff. The impact of employee absence spans far beyond the financial; absence creates increased workload and a dip in morale for colleagues who remain in work covering for the absent employee. It also has the potential to negatively impact upon the organisation’s ability to meet customer demand.

The occupational health of your organisation

Focussing on employee health and wellbeing can positively impact both staff morale and absence rates. A healthier workforce will ultimately be absent less, which means that having a focus on health in the workplace is a win-win situation for both employees and employers.

Fitter employees are also more productive; if their bodies are performing to the best of their ability, and their mental state is free from excessive stress, then they will become more resilient as a result.

Causes of absence

Consider the absence cases you have been privy to in your current and previous organisation or team. What were the most common causes of absence, and could anything have been done to prevent or reduce the length of these absences?

For example, quite often absence due to a back condition can be dramatically reduced as a result of interventions by a trained professional, such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor.

Absences due to mental health illnesses such as depression or anxiety can be reduced with the introduction of talking therapies. But NHS waiting lists are long, and often the employer is expected to wait until these interventions have taken place before return to work discussions can even begin. The solution required is two-fold; reduce the length of the employee’s absence whilst also improving their health and wellbeing.

By supporting employees to improve their health and wellbeing, employers demonstrate a genuine commitment to helping their staff to feel better in themselves, and the benefit of this spans far beyond nine-to-five.

How do you promote health & wellbeing in your organisation?

First, employers should consider developing a wellbeing charter that details the commitment of the business to employee health, and explains how the business will support them to maintain positive physical and mental health.

Examples of things to include in this policy:

  • Access to discounted counselling
  • Physiotherapy sessions
  • Gym membership (agree a preferential rate with local suppliers)
  • Free or discounted flu jabs each year
  • Paid time off to attend medical appointments
  • Encouraging healthy lifestyle choices that are fun and accessible
  • Offer free, on-site pilates or yoga classes at lunchtimes
  • Sport activities (5-a-side football, running clubs)

Another, more costly, option is to consider paying for private health insurance for your staff; this could be a full private health package, or could alternatively be a package to reimburse a proportion of costs associated with various treatments.

Whilst costly, private health packages improve employee occupational health whilst also helping the organisation to become an employer of choice. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for a company which invested in the health of its employees to such a degree that maintaining one’s health was cheaper and easier?

How to choose a healthcare package

Choosing healthcare packages for employees can be a minefield, but it’s important to remember that employers looking to buy-into a healthcare schemes are able to negotiate attractive discount packages as their buying power is greater than the individual, or those who are the usual target customers for these companies.

There are two forms of private healthcare package: the traditional private healthcare scheme which provides hospital stays, consultations with specialists and diagnostic tests free of charge to the employee.

There is no monetary outlay required for the employee; they simply access the services on offer within the package as though they had subscribed to the scheme themselves.

Alternative schemes

The alternative to full medical cover is a proportionate scheme. This covers a percentage of the costs of specialist consultations, diagnostic tests, therapies such as physiotherapy and provide financial recompense for these appointments.

The employer pays their contributions to the scheme on-masse, and employees are responsible for making claims against the money they have spent on treatment. A percentage of the cost spent is then refunded direct from the third-party to the employee. This encourages staff to have their eyes tested regularly and to attend dental-check-ups without the worry of having to pay the full costs associated with these appointments.

Having the option to have the majority of the cost of a physiotherapy session covered by this type of scheme can encourage staff who would otherwise have to wait for NHS waiting lists to access heavily subsidised private treatment; therefore dramatically reducing the length of their absence from work.

Tax Implications

Of course, there are tax implications for the employer and employee as a result of buying into either of the scheme-types detailed above.

Most suppliers will explore the tax implications for you when producing a quotation for your business, but it is worth confirming with them that you are getting the true financial picture before signing up to any particular scheme.

Janine Lennon

Head of Payroll Services

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