Workplace stress, sickness absence management and the cost of healthcare benefits have been major concerns for employers in the past year.
Employee Benefits has perused the past year’s health and wellbeing research to pull out the top issues that employers and employees are facing around workplace health.
Mounting workplace stress, absence management and the affordability of healthcare benefits have been some of the biggest concerns in 2012 and early 2013.
The Employee Benefits/Cigna UK HB Healthcare research 2012, published in June 2012, found that employers were putting the squeeze on providers and brokers to get a better deal. Some 40% of respondents reviewed their healthcare benefits providers for this reason, 39% rebroked their insurance benefits and 24% reviewed the fees or commission they paid to brokers, advisers or providers.
Laing and Buisson, which published its annual report, Health cover UK market report 2012, in August 2012, also found that employers were determined to get the best value from their healthcare benefits spend.
Philip Blackburn, economist at Laing and Buisson, says: “On the spending level, employers are more determined to get value for money, and not to spend much more money in real terms, to have the kind of benefits they currently provide.”
Stable demand for PMI
The report also found that, between 2009 and 2011, there was more stable demand for private medical insurance (PMI) schemes than there had been since before the 2008 recession, and that the employer-funded health cash plan and dental plan markets continued to grow strongly, by 13.5% and 7.7%, respectively. Blackburn adds: “Employer-funded health cash plans and dental plans were the only ones to grow during the recession.”
However, stress has dominated the workplace for both employees and employers over the past year. In Group Risk Development’s (Grid) Group risk employer research study, published in November 2012, 21% of employer respondents named stress and mental health issues as their number one health risk, followed by family issues (20%) and maintaining a good work-life balance (19%).
This may reflect growing acknowledgement of such issues. Aviva UK Health’s Health of the workplace 2012 report, published in October 2012, found that 28% of respondents thought there was less stigma around mental health issues compared with the previous year.
The Employee Benefits/Cigna UK HB Healthcare research 2012 found employers were focusing on strategies to reduce workplace stress: 52% said they had done so, compared with 28% in 2011.
No support around stress
But the Employee stress and support research, published by Canada Life Group Insurance in February 2013, found that 17% of respondents received no support from their employer around stress. This may explain the results of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/ Simplyhealth Absence management survey, published in October 2012, which found that 40% of employer respondents reported a rise in stress-related absence.
Doctor Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, says: “When we look at data for the top causes of stress at work, it is no surprise that workload is at the top of the list. People are doing more with fewer resources, and staff made redundant are not being replaced. Management style is still up there, and is even more important given the current situation, because managers have diffi cult change situations to manage and staff are looking to them for reassurance and to ask diffi cult questions.”
In Grid’s research, 22% of respondents said acute medical conditions were the main cause of employee absence in excessof four weeks, with stress-related mental ill health and usculoskeletal issues both coming in at 13%.
Acute medical conditions
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson at Grid, says: “The last few years, we have had home and family issues come out at the top for long-term absence in the workplace, but last year we saw acute medical conditions come back to the top position. “Is this indicative of the fact that people might be waiting longer on the [National Health Service] NHS? Is it indicative of the fact that we appear to be in the grips of an obesity epidemic, which will exacerbate acute medical conditions?
“Some absence statistics will often capture just one cause of absence. If somebody is off with an acute medical condition, the statistics might not capture the fact that what keeps them off is more likely to be anxiety or depression, rather than the condition. There isn’t really a way to capture that information.”
The CIPD’s Miller says a more pressing concern is the lack of employers that are addressing the situation. “We found that three-quarters of employers are taking action to identify and reduce stress, which is very encouraging,” she says. “But a quarter of employers that found stress to be a top cause of absence said they were not actively doing anything about it. That has got to be the focus for some action.”
Encouragingly, the Grid research found that 34% of respondents had introduced flexible working initiatives to tackle stress.
Rise in presenteeism
Both the Grid and the CIPD/Simplyhealth research also found a rise in presenteeism in UK organisations. For instance, one-third of respondents to the CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence management survey said they had seen an increase in employees struggling into work when they should be off sick.
“Presenteeism is a sign of anxiety,” says Miller. “We found a clear link between those respondents that said they had seen an increase in people coming into work ill and those that had seen an increase in stress and mental health problems. This suggests presenteeism is something we need to look at. Why shouldn’t [employers] take action to change the culture of [their] organisation?”
TIMELINE OF HEALTH RESEARCH OVER THE PAST YEAR
48% of employee respondents said that stress impacts negatively on their working life, with 17% not receiving any support from their employer. Source: Employee stress and support research, Canada Life Group Insurance, February 2013.
23% of organisations surveyed would like to provide international health insurance to employees but cannot afford to do so. Source: Anatomy of an international business report, Expacare, February 2013.
90% of employer respondents would like to see tax incentives introduced for all forms of healthcare-related employee benefits. Source: Sickness absence research, Jelf Employee Benefits, February 2013.
68% of respondents believe their employer should take responsibility for their general health at work. Source: BHF research into the nation’s workplace health, British Heart Foundation, January 2013.
48% of respondents will consider new health and wellbeing initiatives to retain, engage and reward employees in 2013 Source: Health and wellbeing survey, Jelf Employee Benefits, January 2013.
18% of employer respondents are prioritising employee communications with regard to workplace health. Absence management is the top priority, while 15% are also prioritising cost mitigation. Source: Best Doctors/ Canada Life survey, Best Doctors, January 2013.
Following the introduction of health-related benefi ts, 89% of respondents reported increased staff productivity, 88% reported increased motivation, 86% reported improved staff wellbeing and 83% reported reduced sickness absence. Source: Health of the workplace 2012 report, Aviva UK Health, December 2012.
£100 billion is the estimated annual cost to the UK economy because the proportion of adults who are unable to work because of health problems has more than tripled since the 1970s. Source: Work as health outcome in the devolved nations, Mark Weston and Julia Manning, 2020Health, December 2012.
21% of respondents named stress and mental health issues as the top concern around their health, followed by family issues (20%) and maintaining a good work-life balance (19%). Source: Group risk employer research study, Group Risk Development (Grid), November 2012.
28% of respondents believe there is less stigma around mental health issues in the workplace compared with the previous year. Source: Health of the workplace 2012 report, Aviva UK Health, October 2012.
40% of respondents reported a rise in stress-related absence. Source: CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence management survey, CIPD and Simplyhealth, October 2012.
Between 2009 and 2011, demand for employer-paid health cash plans increased by 13.5%, demand for employer-paid dental plans rose by 7.7%, and demand for employer-paid PMI schemes increased by 1.2%. Source: Health cover UK market report 2012, Laing and Buisson, August 2012
45% of respondents said long-term sickness absence is a big concern, with 22% stating that absence impacts the business financially. Source: Absence management report, Aviva UK Health, August 2012.
9.6% is the expected global increase in the cost of providing healthcare benefi ts to employees. Source: 2012 Towers Watson Global medical trends survey, Towers Watson, July 2012.
22% of respondents said they would not consider contributing towards the cost of cancer screening for employees. Source: Cancer in the workplace: its impact and how companies manage it, Helm Godfrey, June 2012.
40% of employer respondents have reviewed their healthcare benefits providers to secure a better deal, while 39% have rebroked their insurance benefits and 24% have reviewed the fees or commission they pay to brokers, advisers or providers for healthcare benefits. Source: Employee Benefits/ Cigna UK HB Healthcare research 2012, June 2012.