Reward research: the art of prevention

The world of employee health and wellbeing is gradually seeing a shift from a reactive to a proactive approach. The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ has gained more and more traction as employers seek to ensure their staff are happy, motivated and well.

Reward research: the art of prevention

Living well for longer

Prevention is a theme that the government has now tagged on to. The Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) believes that prevention is not only crucial to improving the health of the whole population, but can also help to secure health and social care services and boost the economy.

The Prevention is better than cure paper sets out DHSC’s vision to ensure people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035. And employers are highlighted as a key influencer in making this vision a reality.

The paper finds that the workplace is a great setting for reaching people with messages promoting and encouraging healthy lifestyles – after all, a healthy workforce is a more productive one. As such, it calls on more employers to help improve the health of their staff and of the nation. It also suggests greater proactive action to help retain and reintegrate those who are struggling with ill-health.

Employers should look out for a planned consultation in 2019 on measures to encourage and support all employers to play their part in this agenda and to improve access to occupational health.

A long road ahead

Despite greater understanding of the benefits of preventing health problems from arising, many businesses have not introduced early interventions to support employees. The manufacturers’ organisation EEF, in conjunction with Howden UK, found that just under one-fifth of respondents to its Health and Work Survey 2018 said that they have early interventions in place to prevent acute illness becoming chronic.

The survey data also showed that larger businesses offer the greatest range of occupational health services, suggesting that they can afford to be more proactive in investing in their employees’ health than smaller firms.

Although this survey only focuses on a very specific industry sector, it does highlight that many organisations, particularly smaller ones, are yet to fully embrace a preventative approach to employee health.

A global outlook

Willis Towers Watsons’ Global Medical Trends Survey offers a good insight into how companies are tackling ill-health and offers a warning to those businesses that fail to take a proactive approach.

It found that where insurers and, by association, employers do not provide preventative care or a contribution to outpatient services, some money is being saved in the short term; however, more money will be spent in the longer term when the condition can no longer be prevented and needs to be managed.

Although in this context the survey is looking specifically at medical insurance – a benefit that many employers cannot afford to provide to all staff – it still rings true. By not providing access to benefits that can help to prevent ill-health, be that an employee assistance programme, giving discounted gym memberships, promoting healthy eating days or mindfulness exercises, employers risk the escalation of health conditions that could lead to reduced productivity and, ultimately, long-term sickness absence.

The REBA Reports Library has hundreds of reports, surveys and other handy documents pulled together from a myriad government departments, academics, independent organisations and suppliers. We have pulled them together for our members to use to find the data they need to support business cases, presentations and other reward work.

Dawn Lewis is content editor at the Reward & Employee Benefits Association.

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