- Employee health and wellbeing is all-encompassing: The term covers physical, psychological, financial and overall wellbeing at all times.
- Employee benefits have clear advantages for everyone: They are valuable for employees at an individual level but also for the entire workforce and overall business performance.
- There are many health and wellness programs to choose from: However, employers should ensure that they meet the needs of their individual staff and that employees know how to access them.
Employees are the most important asset in almost any business. It is, therefore, essential to look after their wellbeing. In addition to fostering a positive, inclusive working environment, providing relevant health and wellbeing benefits can help a business do this.
In this guide, we explain what employee health and wellbeing means, why providing employee health and wellness programs is important and explore a range of benefits that contribute to physical, psychological and overall wellbeing.
What do we mean by health and wellbeing?
Looking after employee health and wellbeing has come to mean a lot more than providing adequate sick leave, and it isn’t simply about promoting engagement and productivity. It refers to employees’ physical, mental and financial health, alongside other factors. The goal is to support employees to thrive as individuals, in all areas of their lives.
Why are employee health and wellbeing benefits important?
Employee health and wellbeing benefits can have so many advantages, not just for employees but for employers as well.
Well-considered employee health and wellbeing benefits can also:
- Boost morale
- Increase productivity
- Make employees happier
- Reduce presenteeism and absenteeism
- Help with talent acquisition
- Improve employee retention
- Lower business costs
- Contribute to overcoming health inequalities
Physical health employee benefits
Around 25% of UK employees have reported having a physical health condition, yet only 46% of employees say they feel their employer supports their physical and emotional health. As an employer, you can promote good physical health and assist employees with existing physical conditions by providing employee health and wellness programs related to physical wellbeing and sharing health tips.
Some businesses have an on-site gym that employees can use, but a free or discounted gym membership can also be valuable. If this is something you want to offer, ensure you give employees a choice of gyms so that they can pick one that suits them due to its location, facilities or both.
Cycle to work scheme
These schemes promote physical activity by encouraging employees to cycle to work rather than using their own vehicles or public transport. Employees can save up to 48.25% on a bike and cycling equipment via salary sacrifice, and businesses can make savings of 13.8% on National Insurance contributions.
Stop smoking support
Around 6.1 million people in England smoke and smoking is linked to nearly half a million hospital admissions each year. What’s more, smoking costs approximately £8.6 billion per year in lost productivity.
Businesses can support their employees to stop smoking by signposting them to relevant resources and local and national initiatives, such as the NHS Quit Smoking app. For further support, employers could also look to subsidise or cover the cost of quitting aids, such as nicotine patches or gum.
Private health cover
Many people struggle to book a GP appointment when needed or have had medical investigations or procedures delayed. This can lead to physical conditions becoming worse and individuals feeling worried or stressed about their health.
Offering employees private health coverage so they can access healthcare as and when needed, can give them all-important peace of mind. Some businesses extend this coverage to family members of employees, further contributing to overall employee wellness.
More than 30% of people state that they don’t go to the dentist because it’s too expensive, a clear indication of how valuable dental cover for employees can be. Employee dental cover can give staff access to private dentists, routine check-ups and free or subsidised treatment.
Menstruation and menopause leave
For some individuals, their period can be anything from painful to completely debilitating. In addition, those navigating menopause can encounter a range of symptoms including irregular bleeding, mood changes, difficulty sleeping, night sweats and hot flushes. These symptoms can be uncomfortable, stressful and embarrassing. Businesses can support individuals who are menstruating or going through menopause by offering flexible working options, paid time off and access to resources and/or specialists.
In the UK, 2 million people are living with sight loss, yet half of sight loss is avoidable with early detection of eye conditions. Employers can promote employee eye health by offering free sight tests and subsidising the cost of glasses and contact lenses.
Mental health employee benefits
Nearly 15% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace and evidence suggests that more than 12% of sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. Moreover, according to the mental health charity Mind, 60% of employees say they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing. Therefore, employee health and wellness programs that specifically contribute to good mental health are certainly worth considering.
Paid sick and mental health leave
Employers can show that they place importance on employee mental health by offering paid time off for mental health. Some employers do this by giving employees a number of mental health days annually that they can take at any time or by offering employees unlimited paid time off.
During 2020 to 2021, 1.46 million NHS referrals were made to talking therapies, showing that there is a need in the UK for access to services such as counselling, CBT and peer support.
An employee assistance programme that gives staff access to specialist mental health support can be incredibly valuable. If such an initiative is in place, employers should make sure that all employees know how to use it and what their entitlement is.
There are many sites and apps available that focus on promoting mental health and improving emotional wellbeing. These apps can be useful to employees, especially when they can access them from a handheld device at their own pace. Employers can subsidise or offer free subscriptions to apps but should offer employees a range of options so they can pick one they feel will help the most.
Wellbeing employee benefits
Individual wellbeing encompasses all aspects of life and good wellbeing is associated with high quality of life. Therefore, employee wellbeing benefits look at individuals as a whole and promote overall contentment and balance.
One in two people will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime. Around 36% of those living with cancer are of working age and 85% of those employed at the time of their diagnosis say it was important for them to continue working.
Providing employees with comprehensive cancer support is important. Perci Health can help employers achieve this. We offer online access to 20 different holistic cancer support types and all support is bespoke to each individual’s experience and is available to anyone who has been affected by cancer, including the family, friends and colleagues of those who receive a diagnosis.
Companies can provide fertility benefits to employees to support them with family planning. They are an important employee benefit to consider given that 1 in 7 heterosexual couples have trouble conceiving, and non-heterosexual couples and individuals who want to become parents often face barriers. Financial and emotional support is provided for egg/sperm freezing, adoption, surrogacy and fertility treatments.
The practice of mindfulness can help with stress, anxiety and depression, and promote higher levels of life satisfaction. There are many apps and initiatives available for mindfulness, with features including meditation guidance, journalling and sleep stories. Like with apps for mental health, employers can offer subscriptions to employees either free of charge or for a reduced fee.
Personal finance can be complicated, so help for employees with things such as budgeting, investments, tax allowance and pensions can be incredibly valuable. Not only can access to tailored financial education help employees to feel more in control of their assets, but it can also reduce financial stress and contribute to financial wellbeing across the entire workforce.
Free cinema tickets, office lunches, themed gifts and casual dress days may not seem like much in comparison to other employee health and wellness programs but they can have a significant impact on employee morale.
Cinema tickets, for example, can remind employees to take time to enjoy themselves and be a welcome treat given that not all employees will necessarily have disposable income for entertainment. Casual dress days can allow them to showcase their individual sense of style and contribute to inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.
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