Employers to increase wellbeing benefit spend to reduce absence in the workplace

One in five organisations across the country are expecting to boost their spend on wellbeing benefits in 2014, according to the CIPD/ Simplyhealth Absence Management survey. As absence rates rise to an average of 7.6 days per employee per year, the findings highlight that employers are increasing their focus on offering workforce wellbeing packages in an attempt to reduce workplace absence.

Nearly three quarters of organisations acknowledge the need to reduce employee absence, although only one third have a strategy in place to do so. A robust wellbeing strategy is a key element in helping to drive down absence rates with public sector organisations twice as likely to have a wellbeing strategy (67%) in place, compared to their private sector counterparts (33%) and not for profits (36%). These results indicate significant scope for these sectors to consider introducing enhanced benefits or wellbeing strategies to help reduce absence levels and improve employee health.

Just two fifths of organisations monitor the cost of employee absence, which now costs £595 per employee per year. In addition, just under a fifth of organisations evaluate the impact of their wellbeing spend, down to 18% from 23% in 2012. 

Larger and public sector organisations are more likely to evaluate the impact of having wellbeing strategies in place and accordingly are twice as likely to increase spend on benefits packages (44% compared to 22% of those who don’t evaluate benefits) over the next year.  The results demonstrate organisations’ that evaluate the impact of investing in staff wellbeing see positive results such as reduced absence rates, improved performance and increased retention levels.  Organisations that measure the impact of their wellbeing strategies are therefore much more likely to introduce or explore new initiatives. 

Results also show benefits differ across these sectors, with public and not for profit organisations typically opting for counselling services and Employee Assistance Programmes. Three quarters of all organisations offer health promotion programmes, while three in ten offer subsidised gym memberships, stop smoking support and lifestyle advice. Overall, two thirds of organisations offer private medical insurance or protection, the most prevalent benefit within the private sector. 

Howard Hughes, Head of Employer Marketing at Simplyhealth
It is great to see that a growing number of organisations are placing more attention on wellbeing nevertheless the survey results demonstrate there is still room for more employers to follow suit. There are many cost effective ways of investing in the health and wellbeing of your employees such as offering healthy canteen options, fresh fruit and health advice as well as health cash plans and private medical insurance. Introducing wellbeing packages can have a positive impact on employee productivity and can help to reduce absence. Employees feel cared for and in turn are more motivated to achieve company goals, resulting in a productive workforce which has a positive effect on the bottom line. Happy employees are also much easier to retain, while a robust benefits package can act as a draw for new talent. Our health plans are an affordable benefit which staff really value. There are a range of benefits they can take advantage of and it can prompt staff to take better care of their health and get minor illnesses seen to before it leads to short term absence.
Howard Hughes, Head of Employer Marketing at Simplyhealth

Dr Jill Miller, Research Adviser, at the CIPD said: “A carefully thought out wellbeing strategy with benefits that truly address employee needs can have a significant impact on an organisation and employee health. The prevailing climate of austerity, job uncertainty and rising bills is taking its toll on people, making employer attention to wellbeing more important than ever. In fact, 2/5 of organisations told us they’d seen an increase in stress and the same number reported an increase in mental health problems among staff over the past 12 months. 

“With budget cuts, employers need to think creatively about how they can retain a focus on employee wellbeing. And to keep it firmly on the agenda, it is essential to demonstrate the impact of initiatives. Most interestingly, our research has found that evaluations of wellbeing spend generally conclude that investing in wellbeing in worthwhile. Those organisations that evaluate their wellbeing spend are significantly more likely to have increased their spend this year, as well as more likely to predict it will increase next year. 

“However, fundamentally, the benefits of wellbeing initiatives will only be realised if employees know about what’s available and how to access help and support. Clear, consistent and continuous communication is essential. And making wellbeing a part of an organisation’s culture will encourage people to use the support on offer and take part in activities.”

Simplyhealth helps 20,000 businesses to provide healthcare benefits to staff through health cash plans, dental plans, private health insurance and selffunded health plans.