Five ways employers can support employee health
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published its annual “Health at a Glance” study comparing health systems across both developing and developed countries.
Anyone expecting praise for the UK healthcare system will be disappointed as the authors rate it as “one of the worst in the developed world” as a lack of investment over the past six years brings down standards.
While this is disappointing news for those of us who rely on the NHS to meet our healthcare needs, it also has important implications for employers as delays in accessing healthcare impact the health and performance of their employees.
Although the NHS funding is ring-fenced from the upcoming round of government cuts, it is unlikely it will get high levels of investment in the foreseeable future.
As a result, it’s increasingly likely that employers who want a healthy workforce will need to do what they can to support employee wellbeing. Here are some practical steps to make a difference to your employees and your business:
1 Look at what’s driving sickness in your organisation
One of the biggest opportunities for employers is to understand the common reasons which might be driving poor health in your business. Get behind the numbers for sickness absence and make it your job to find out the top five reasons for absence. Knowing whether your biggest problem is backaches and migraines or seasonal cold and flu will have a big impact on what you do to support your people.
2 Think about what you can do to prevent absence
Some of the most common causes of ill health can be fixed with a combination of forethought and investment by employers. Screening and assessment of occupational health not only helps prevent problems arising in the first place but ensures they are nipped in the bud before they get worse.
Targeted preventative measures can also help. One employer I know spotted that flu-related absence was a major problem in their young workforce so they provide subsidised flu jabs on site to help keep their people healthy each winter.
3 Make it easy for employees to access healthcare
Very few employers take regular stock of the benefits they provide and what is out there on the market. Cash plans can have a major impact in this area, providing significant support to the cost of everyday healthcare for your employees. Voluntary benefits schemes which give staff the opportunity to buy discounted health insurance are another popular low-cost way of improving access to the right medical support.
4 Promote wider wellbeing
Another area to think about is encouraging a healthy workplace. Here you need to think about physical activity such as promoting cycling or walking to work and providing subsidised gym membership, as well as nutrition by supporting healthy choices in your canteens and in meetings where food might be served.
5 Help your employees stay healthy
A final area where employers can help is in promoting the support they give employees. Aligning yourself to annual awareness campaigns such as Eye Health Week or National Smile Month is a great way of reminding your employees to fix optical or dental appointments and take advantage of these benefits if you offer them. This should form part of a wider plan to promote the benefits you have on offer through the year.
Rob Malvasi is UK Head of Business Development for Munroe Sutton who support employers with discounts on healthcare and dental care. You can find out more about us here.