Employers need to support wellbeing in new economic climate

Employers need to support wellbeing in new economic climate

Aon Employee Benefits, the UK health and benefits business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), has highlighted four ways UK employers can support employee wellbei

Aon Employee Benefits, the UK health and benefits business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), has highlighted four ways UK employers can support employee wellbeing in the changing economic climate. The new report, ‘Wellbeing: Examining the correlation between employee health and financial wellbeing’ examines and interprets data from various global and regional sources, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Aon’s own research and client base data. The result is a picture of what is changing in employee health and wealth and what that means for employers.

Key impacts highlighted in the report are global medical trends which show that employer medical costs are rising ahead of inflation, employee risk factors that are expected to drive future claims, the increasing rate of obesity among adults, the high level of preventable cancers, the musculoskeletal issues which represent the biggest cause of health at work issues, and major mental health and stress concerns.

Alongside this, UK data suggests that disposable income has increased, theoretically making saving and pension contributions more affordable. However the Aon Defined Contribution (DC) Member Survey 2016 research indicates otherwise, with the vast majority of employees saving less than 10% of their salary into a pension scheme. Indeed, more than half intend to rely on the State pension, even though life expectancy is expected to continue rising, so financial provision will in all probability need to support them for longer.

Martha How, principal at Aon Employee Benefits and main author of the study, said:

“Much of the research indicates that to achieve better health and retirement provision, employees need to change their behaviour. Despite all the publicity, employees in the main are not paying sufficient attention to health and savings. However, employers have a vested business interest in employee health and wealth wellbeing as there are clear business benefits arising from this and there are steps they can take to address growing employee financial and medical health concerns.”

The four actions are:

  1. Understand the connections between employee health, wealth and behaviour in the specific working population. Not all employers are the same and each would benefit from truly understanding the dynamics that underlie their specific employee population’s health and wealth.
  2. Secure sufficient budget for employee wellbeing. The Aon 2016 EMEA health report research has shown that wellbeing budget restrictions are a problem. However, there are opportunities to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) from wellbeing programmes through absence reduction, engagement improvement, productivity improvement, recruitment attractiveness, PMI cost control and employee retention. The key is to convince decision-makers of the ROI – actions may take over 12 months to start to repay investment. The analytical information indicated above should feed into this.
  3. Design a wellbeing programme which is relevant to employees and to the performance metrics that need to be improved. These programmes can address situations such as mental health and stress, financial wellbeing and education, fitness and diet campaigns, ‘stop smoking’ campaigns, health screening and posture and health programmes.
  4. Communicate a wellbeing programme in a way that best attracts the attention of employees. Use of multimedia can be powerful but it is important to understand what types of media employees respond to best. Simply relying on email may be a false economy. Web tools, a flexible benefits site, surveys, fitness checks, health apps, seminars, etc. can all be useful, but key to this is line manager training and buy-in.

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