With this month (April) being the start of a new financial year, Paul Avis argues that now is a good opportunity for employers to be reflecting on whether they could be doing a better job at using – and communicating – health and wellbeing benefits to make themselves more attractive to employees of all ages. Occupational health can be part of this important conversation, too.
New decade, new me and, from April of course, new financial year. So, as we enter the new financial year, how is the current landscape looking in terms of health and wellbeing benefits?
The first thing to note is that, while wages might be outpacing inflation, employees are increasingly paying attention to their benefits packages, and these can sometimes offer substantial help around financial wellbeing. Given that just two out of 10 employees report no financial or health issues – or put another way, 80% have at least some – as evidenced by research from Willis Towers Watson, this can be valuable.
About the author
Paul Avis is marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance
Employers looking to bolster their benefits package should therefore consider Group Income Protection (GIP). Our research shows that more than a quarter (28%) of millennials aged 18-34 believe GIP will be the most useful protection product to support an extended career.
One of the most important things to recognise with GIP schemes is they come with a comprehensive suite of support services, many related to employee health and wellbeing.
EAP, early intervention and second medical opinion services
For example, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a common bolt-on to a GIP scheme, provided at no extra cost to the premiums paid. EAPs, as OH professionals will undoubtedly already know, can be effective in helping to prevent sickness absence, especially in supporting those struggling with mental ill health.
But alongside health and wellbeing an EAP may also be able to help with things like budgeting, debt, housing and landlord disputes, all of which can impact an employee’s mental, emotional and financial wellbeing.
Early intervention services (EIS) are often included within GIP schemes, too, and can help with both employee absence and return to work. In the same way, second medical opinion services provided as part of a GIP scheme can offer employees fast-track access to medical experts and GPs.
It is well-recognised that personal and family health are two common causes of presenteeism, which in turn reduces productivity. Having benefits that can provide clinical certainty and confidence, which people can use daily and which can be extended to family members reinforces the employer/employee “value contract”. They provide employees with the peace of mind their loved ones are being cared for by their employer, too.
But it is not just about individual benefits. A good employee benefits package should offer a range of benefits that suits employees and their families at different stages of life. A young worker at the start of their career might not have the same priorities as a new parent or an employee approaching retirement, for example.
Better communication for better health and wellbeing
So, what does this all tell us? It is clear the dynamic of the UK workplace will change drastically in the next decade, and employers will not be able to rely on the usual recruitment strategies, with the role of health and wellbeing benefits within this is no exception.
It is going to become ever-more important for employers to communicate benefits effectively and efficiently. Our research has revealed that 85% of employees say they are more likely to work for employers who offer clearly labelled workplace benefits, suggesting workers value benefits but often find it difficult to understand what is being offered. If employers want to win the battle to recruit and retain the best staff, they are going to need to get better at how they communicate around health, wellbeing and benefits.
This trend is particularly true for employees aged 25-34, with 94% agreeing that better labelling would help their decision. Effective communication will help employers to retain and attract new staff. Clear and regular communication will also help employees to feel valued and secure, with peace of mind that they have support and financial protection.
Finally, the next decade will be decisive for businesses’ success in the post-Brexit war for talent. Employers, more than ever, will need to step up their game in terms of what they offer within employee benefits packages, and how they communicate this, if they want to stay relevant in the job market.
2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, Willis Towers Watson, https://www.willistowerswatson.com/-/media/WTW/Insights/2017/11/2017-global-benefits-attitudes-survey.pdf
Canada Life Group Ageing Workforce research, May 2019
Canada Life Group Productivity research, March 2018
Canada Life EIS MI, 2019