Partial cure for absence

This article is brought to you by our sponsor Pru Health.

Employers are increasingly putting integrated health and wellbeing strategies in place in a bid to tackle absence and cut the number of days staff take off sick, says Shaun Matisonn, CEO, PruHealth

Given the fact that UK companies spend approximately £13bn a year on sickness absence, it is little wonder that employers are increasingly looking for an integrated approach to managing their employees’ health and wellbeing.

The latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Absence management report show a significant shift in employers’ attitudes to providing health and wellbeing services to their staff with 42% of employers now saying they have a health and wellbeing strategy in place, compared with only 26% the previous year.

Just by looking at the change in government policy we can see that both the government and health consumers alike are becoming more demanding in terms of what is perceived to be an acceptable service from the NHS. While the government’s target of a maximum 18-week wait for NHS in-patients for 2008 is a significant improvement on the 18 months suggested in 1997, it is still a long time for an employee to be potentially off work or not working to their maximum ability due to ill-health.

Providing private medical insurance (PMI) is the most popular means of reducing sickness absence and the benefits of offering it are clear: a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, a fact which impacts directly on staff costs and a company’s profitability. There is a clear link between health risks, absenteeism and the growing phenomena of presenteeism (people coming to work when they are ill). If you can reduce these risks then you can significantly reduce your absence and presenteeism rates.

In addition to reducing absenteeism and presenteeism in the workforce, there can also be significant improvements to recruitment and retention rates. Employees increasingly believe that it is their employer’s responsibility to look after their health so the advantages for employers offering health and wellbeing services to their staff are considerable. In the first instance they are an attractive recruitment tool and once a hire is made, the potential for retaining the employee is greater due to the health and wellbeing benefit.

However, if employers want to attract the right calibre of employee they have to offer more than just PMI. Insurers are now starting to provide integrated health and wellbeing solutions which encourage policyholders to engage in healthy activities in order to keep well. Policyholders are rewarded for their engagement with points which can translate into lower premiums. The idea is to motivate, encourage and engage policyholders to look after their health and wellbeing. As insurers, we can make this easier by offering discounts with a range of partners.

But there is a difference between paying lip service to a health and wellbeing strategy and actually engaging with one. Once a strategy has been adopted, employers need to make sure that employees take it up.

For employers offering this type of integrated PMI product, it demonstrates their dedication to their employees’ state of health and will hopefully be matched – if not surpassed – by a similar level of dedication to health and wellbeing by the employees themselves.

The views and opinions in this article are those of our sponsor, Pru Health, and do not necessarily reflect those of

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