Changes in the welfare system have meant that the responsibility for supporting people is increasingly falling to the workplace with the onus on employers to do more to support their employees. GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector, has conducted research from among both employers and employees, and it shows that although employers and employees agree that mental health is a top priority for support, their priorities don’t tally across all areas of health and wellbeing, and organisations may be missing the mark in other areas:
• 75 per cent of employers feel it is their responsibility to support staff with mental health wellbeing (such as access to counselling & mental health first aiders), and 49 per cent of employees concur. Employers perceive this to be the number one priority for employees and their judgement is accurate as staff also prioritised this over other wellbeing concerns.
• However, 70 per cent of employers believe it is also their responsibility to support staff with their physical wellbeing (for instance with access to physio and rehabilitation) but only 32 per cent of employees felt this is the responsibility of their employer.
• Employees rank financial wellbeing support from their employer as more important than physical wellbeing support (36 per cent as against 32 per cent), but 46 per cent of employers don’t believe the financial wellbeing of their staff to be their responsibility at all. Financial support is second, only to mental health, in terms of employees’ top priorities for wellbeing support.
• Interestingly, just under two-thirds (61 per cent) of employers think it is their responsibility to ensure the social wellbeing of staff (i.e. encouraging social connections and supporting their sense of belonging) but employees don’t agree: only 27 per cent of staff think this is an area for employer support and it was the least-prioritised area of wellbeing by employees.
Thankfully, only six per cent of employers believe they have no responsibility at all for the wellbeing of their staff but remarkably, a third (30 per cent) of employees also believe that their employer has no duty of care for the areas of mental health, financial, physical or social wellbeing.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said:
“Wellness and wellbeing are terms that have been around for centuries and nowadays have become fully mainstream in the workplace lexicon. With that comes an expectation from employers that employees will want support, and vice versa that employers will provide that support for employees. Employees have clearly highlighted that their priorities are mental wellbeing and financial wellbeing and it’s important that employers respond to this.
“There’s a lot more support today that employers can access to offer their staff which helps them fulfil their duty of care. Group risk products (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and crucial illness) are one such way of providing this support, and the embedded extra services within group risk products can ensure all areas of wellbeing are covered – those that employees prioritise but also the needs they don’t yet know they have, through unexpected sickness or injury.
“Whichever way employers decide to offer support, it’s important that they regularly review what’s available and put in place support that’s fit for purpose, and that their staff value and know how to utilise.”