Employee health issues misunderstood by businesses

Just 37 per cent of UK employers understand the impact of their employee health issues, a study shows.

In addition, UK employers are less likely than others in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region to have a defined employee health strategy (30 per cent vs 40 per cent), according to a survey by Aon.

The company’s EMEA Health Survey also shows that UK employers’ actions are out of line with their actual concerns. Some 63 per cent believe their top issue is managing stress and mental health issues, while 51 per cent suggest that physical health is their second-highest health and wellbeing priority.

However, more employers have physical and social programmes to support employee wellbeing (57 per cent and 55 per cent respectively), while just 41 per cent have an emotional or psychological programme in place.

Matthew Lawrence, chief broking officer of the health and benefits UK and EMEA arm at Aon Employee Benefits says that several influences are starting to drive home to employers the importance of addressing health and wellbeing.

‘Our survey shows that 93 per cent of UK employers agree that they are responsible for influencing employee health and changing behaviours; an increase of over 15 per cent on the 2015 figure,’ he says.

‘Unfortunately, poorly-thought-out strategies waste expenditure if they aren’t underpinned by data. Using data and analytics is imperative as this informs the employer about the overall health of their employee population.’

Allowing employers to help their staff

Morag Livingston, group risk and healthcare manager at Secondsight says that employers need to give their people the tools to help themselves and to do the best in their job, as that’s how you will get the most from them.

‘However, I would argue that it’s not just about keeping them in work or even retaining them long term; it’s also key to keep them healthy while they are at work.’

We all experience day-to- day stresses; some more acutely than others, adds Livingston. ‘Working as a Samaritan many years ago, I often came across people who felt unable to accomplish their work tasks effectively, as a result of feeling either stressed or unwell.

‘Yet, in spite of this, I’d argue that a large number of employers fail to provide the right levels of support for staff suffering from conditions relating to stress, anxiety or depression.’

Thankfully, health and wellness have, rightly, risen up the news agenda, encompassing the area of mental health.

Livingston says that early intervention is about reducing or eliminating potential issues, and in the case of mental health in the workplace, its use can help to reduce the amount of time an employee is required to take off.

‘Canada Life has previously cited that where early intervention is introduced, a mental health claim duration will be seven months or less. That’s opposed to the 80 per cent with a claim duration of two years or more where there isn’t any early intervention support.’

There is also evidence that, as well as improving your employees’ health, addressing mental wellbeing can reduce your costs. The Family Care Trust has seen a 25 per cent decrease in absenteeism in nine months following the implementation of a mental wellbeing programme, which has saved the organisation over £15,000 in staff-related costs, a return on investment of 400 per cent. The programme included the delivery of mental health first aid courses to all managers. ‘The course was very informative and gave me a deeper insight into some of the mental health issues people are living with,’ says Kirsty Meddings, assessment administrator at the organisation.

Further reading on employee health

Poor health is impacting performance of employee

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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Employee health