Why health and wellbeing benefits could help keep staff post-Brexit

Whatever happens long-term with Brexit, employers are already facing an increasingly challenging recruitment and retention environment as more EU citizens leave the UK and fewer join. Offering a group insurance policy with good health and wellbeing benefits could be an important way for employers to make themselves more attractive to potential recruits, argues Paul Avis.

Access to talent has been one of the focal points of the Brexit debate, with freedom of movement between the EU and the UK set to end following the transition period (assuming of course the UK leaves with a deal which, at the time of writing in February, was still not clear).

About the author

Paul Avis is marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance

As many employers will be aware, new immigration policies have yet to be established – though a skills-based system is likely – and these policies will undoubtedly have practical repercussions for them.

Across the country, the “war for talent” has already begun. With more EU citizens leaving the UK workforce and fewer joining, the stream of immigration is no longer providing a steady supply of employees. On top of an ageing workforce, UK employers will have to think about how they can attract and retain the staff they need for future business success.

Clearly, many factors play into this, but arguably a group insurance policy that includes good health and wellbeing benefits could be an invaluable tool within an employer’s armoury post-Brexit to help tackle these skills and labour challenges, and is something employers should consider as they plan for the future.

The dwindling workforce

Ahead of the Brexit deadline, Mercer presented a range of migration scenarios in its annual Workforce Monitor, which analysed the UK population and workforce in a pre- and post-Brexit world.

In the early 2017 edition, the most extreme scenario outlined was called the “Great EU Re-Migration”, which projected the UK workforce declining by 700,000 by 2030. But in August of the same year, the rate at which EU workers were leaving the UK already indicated these projections would be surpassed.

In its most recent version, Mercer has predicted that by 2025 the UK-born workforce will fall by a further 200,000, as emigration has already reached its highest level since 2011. This is a stark warning – action is required by employers to protect their workforce in the short-term.

Retaining a diverse workforce

Retention has been identified as one of the key priorities for the post-Brexit labour market. In the most recent Workforce Monitor report, attraction and retention fell under Mercer’s “first line of defence” for employers reliant on migrant workforces.

Group insurance could be one part of the solution to create a supportive environment that encourages and enhances a diverse and stable workforce. This, or simply broadening the benefits offering, is a simple and cost-effective way to enhance an employer’s appeal to their staff.

Group Income Protection (GIP) in particular should be investigated because it often provides a more secure safety net than the current state benefit system. With only 18,000 GIP policies in the UK, this added service really differentiates an employer from their competition.

The majority of GIP schemes come with a comprehensive suite of support services. This may include an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which will have a host of health and wellbeing features, such as budgeting tools and healthy eating plans, to keep workers engaged and productive.

Counselling can also be accessed for any issues which may be causing stress or anxiety and access to EAPs can reduce and even prevent long-term staff absences.

Similarly, second medical opinion services can give employees access to medical experts and GPs. At a time when health and social care in the UK is under enormous pressure, this benefit can be a real eye-catcher.

The course ahead

The dynamic of the UK workplace will change drastically in the next 10 years, and employers will not be able to rely on the same recruitment strategies. History has shown that the organisations that can respond and adapt to the changing landscape are those which thrive and leave their competition behind.

New thinking will be required. Many organisations will need to invest time and money in understanding and meeting the needs of their workforce.

People and their skills will become a more valuable commodity . Ultimately, those employers that are agile in their thinking and prepared for the challenges ahead will weather the storm better than those who remain stuck in outdated habits.

‘Three in four HR professionals expect Brexit to escalate “competition for talent”,’ Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, June 2017, https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/050617-smarter-uk-recruitment-required
Mercer Workforce Monitor, August 2017 update, p3, https://www.uk.mercer.com/our-thinking/career/workforce-monitor-august-2017-update.html
Mercer Workforce Monitor, March 2018 report, p5, p12, https://www.uk.mercer.com/our-thinking/career/workforce-monitor-2018.html


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