Clare Bettelley: Employers’ support for employee health is lacking

A Confederation of British Industry report, Getting better: workplace health as a business issue, published in May, found that there are clear business benefits to supporting employee health and wellbeing, such as lower absence, higher productivity and better engagement, so it is time for employers to act.

Employee Benefits’ Workplace health report: strategies in practice is designed to help organisations do just that by exploring some of the key healthcare issues affecting workforces, so they can learn when and how to take a more preventative approach to supporting staff who are struggling to perform at their best, whatever the reason.


Prevention is already at the heart of many employers’ healthcare strategies as they strive to minimise sickness absence levels and, in the process, reduce costs.  

But this is not enough. An unacceptable number of employers continue to fail massively in their duty of care to optimise the health and wellbeing of their workforce. This is unacceptable given the increased workloads that so many organisations have expected their staff to take on during the economic downturn when recruitment freezes were commonplace.

This is particularly the case around sensitive topics such as mental health, which many employers avoid tackling because of the fear of getting it wrong.

Many employers are also struggling to deal with financial wellbeing because they fear breaching Financial Conduct Authority rules that prohibit them from offering financial advice, only guidance.

So perhaps it is time for employers to change their approach to employee health and wellbeing. A starting point could be for organisations to accept that ill-health is a genuine business risk, which should be managed in the same way as any other business risk and by a range of departments, which should include compliance.

An acceptance by employers that healthcare strategies are a work in progress and based on trial and error may also help to boost their efforts, as would a commitment to replace empty pledges with meaningful action, where possible and affordable.

Clare Bettelley is associate editor of Employee Benefits