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Towergate Health & Protection

Importance of health & wellbeing support for recruitment & retention singled out in research

Health and wellbeing support is a major factor in the recruitment and retention of talent – in a survey of 500 HR decision makers in the UK, 42% stated their support for the health and wellbeing of staff is a key reason people stay with the company.

In addition, 31% said health and wellbeing support is a key reason people choose to work for them, based on results of a survey undertaken by Towergate Health & Protection.

Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting, Towergate Health & Protection, said: “The research supports our anecdotal evidence of the wider reaches of health and wellbeing support, and why it is so important that employers have a clear and well-communicated strategy. The wider the health and wellbeing support offered, the better the array of talent it will attract and retain.”  

On the flipside, nearly one in five (18%) employers stated that not offering enough health and wellbeing support impacts their ability to recruit and retain people: a stark warning for all.

Health and wellbeing
Support for health in general was viewed by 42% of employers to have increased the most in importance for enhancing the recruitment and retention of talent. Twenty-six percent of employers said support for mental health had increased most in importance, and 19% said it was the overall health and wellbeing package that had grown most in terms of priorities. 

Social interaction through work (11%), communication of support offered (9%), support for financial health (9%), and an environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy (8%), were also identified as increasing in importance. So the support offered needs to be wide and holistic.

Implementing a strong health and wellbeing programme

According to the survey results, and evidence seen by Towergate Health & Protection across its client base, implementing a strong health and wellbeing programme is vital in the recruitment and retention of talent. Moreover, the programme must be widely communicated to employees and easily accessed and managed by employees and employers alike if it is really going to make a difference. 

The four pillars of health and wellbeing
A strong programme must support all four pillars of health and wellbeing – emotional, physical, financial, and social health – to add the most value to recruitment and retention. The research shows that all four are not only important in keep existing employees healthy, and to retain their loyalty, but also to attract new employees. 

Clark added: “Employees’ needs and demands have shifted dramatically since before the pandemic struck. We have all had a realignment of priorities, and employers need to match these if they are to attract and retain the best staff, which is only going to become more important.”

86% of employers think employees require more support for health and wellbeing since the pandemic


Of the four pillars of health and wellbeing – mental, physical, social, and financial health – mental health has been placed as the top issue for concern from employers and also the area where employees would most like more support, with 40% of employers saying they are more concerned about the mental health of staff since the pandemic.  

That’s according to the results from Towergate Health & Protection’s research into the changes in health and wellbeing support needed by employees since the pandemic.

Increasing concerns 

Employers are also now more concerned about all areas of health and wellbeing:

  • 22% are more concerned about the physical health of employees, with difficulty getting to see GPs, pressures on the NHS, and delays in being diagnosed and treated for serious conditions. 
  • 17% are more concerned for the financial health of employees since the pandemic. 
  • 13% are more concerned about social health including, for instance, increased isolation.

Changing expectations
Over half (53%) of employers say their employees would like more mental health support since the pandemic. Forty-one percent feel that social support is needed more than previously. Over a third (36%) believe their staff now want more support for their financial health, and another third (36%) also think employees want more help with their physical health since the pandemic. 

Overall, this means that 86% of employers believe employee expectations have changed and that they require more support for their health and wellbeing since the pandemic. 

Larger corporates Vs SMEs
The impact of the pandemic on mental health effect appears to have been felt more by employees in larger companies. Nearly half (49%) of employers in companies with 250+ staff said they are more concerned about the mental health of staff since the pandemic. This compares to 37% of SMEs. 

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of large corporates said employees would like more mental health support than previously, compared to less than half (46%) of SMEs. 

Re-evaluating 
Brett Hill, head of distribution for Towergate Health & Protection, said: “Employers need to re-evaluate their healthand wellbeing support in the wake of Covid. Working practices have changed and so have attitudes and expectations. It is important for any health and wellbeing programme to recognise the changing needs of employees and to be adaptable as we adjust to life post-pandemic.”  

Surveying needs
A good way to re-evaluate and reposition health and wellbeing is to start by asking employees what they want. This may be through a simple survey or a more complex mix of ideas forums, research, and focus groups. Being aware that requirements may have changed is an important first step.   

Making help available
While mental health has been highlighted as the biggest issue, the research shows that increased support is required across all four of the pillars of health and wellbeing. Employers need to ensure that employees have access to the support that will most benefit them and meet with their individual requirements.   A benefits platform can also assist here where employees can access all benefits in one place. 

Mental health support can be available in many forms, from talking with colleagues and managers, to offering access to specialist independent counselling. 

Health and fitness benefits have advanced greatly recently. There are now a great many apps, reward schemes and groups to help encourage staff to have a healthy lifestyle, including starting and maintaining fitness regimes. The pandemic has seen a rise in the use of virtual GPs and online consultations, and these can make appointments easier to arrange and quicker to attend. 

It is social lives that have perhaps changed the most throughout the pandemic. It is important for employers to look at new ways to allow employees to socialise together, especially if a move has been made to hybrid working. 

Financial health must not be forgotten. Financial concerns can cause a great deal of stress, leading itself to physical, mental and social ill health. Benefits that help people manage their finances, and that offer a direct financial benefit can be a great support to employees.

Hill concluded: ‘There have been a lot of challenges for businesses and their workforces to deal with during the pandemic, and these have affected all areas of health and wellbeing. Now is a good time for employers to look at solutions available for them to help their staff.’

Global employers ‘need to have security evacuation plans in place’

The current situation in eastern Europe has highlighted how quickly things can escalate and the vital need for employers with overseas staff to have an emergency plan in place in case of political or civil unrest.

That’s according to Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection said: “Employers need to be aware of the differences between security and medical evacuation plans. They must have both in place to ensure all bases are covered and they must be aware of the level of the support offered.”

Security evacuation
International medical insurance is specifically for the sick or injured. Security evacuation is different. While a political incident could result in grave physical harm or death, it is not actually a medical emergency and is unlikely to be covered by a medical emergency plan. Any region or country in which employees are working can be at risk. Terror attacks, for example, happen all around the world and often with no prior indication. With support ranging from ‘point of incident evacuation’ and ‘political or natural disaster evacuation’, to ‘security evacuation’, it is vital to take specialist advice on exactly how to offer emergency support for employees abroad. 

Evacuation and repatriation
Employers and their employees abroad should be aware that evacuation is different from repatriation. With regards to medical evacuation, for example, this means that if there are no appropriate medical facilities in the employee’s current location, they will be evacuated to the nearest centre of medical excellence to undergo care. Repatriation, however, means that the employee will be transported back to their home nation for treatment. Under security evacuation, an employee may find they are taken to the nearest safe location, rather than to their home country, unless repatriation is a specific part of the support offered.

International medical insurance
International medical insurance is also crucial for any employee abroad. It must be fit for purpose, and this will be different on a case-by-case basis. If an employee falls seriously ill abroad, it is imperative that they are fully covered for all eventualities. Travel insurance is for short holidays and is not to the level required by someone working overseas.

Local expertise
Local knowledge can form an important part of the decision-making process when sending employees abroad. Guidance from experts in country can provide an insight into the situation into which staff are being sent. They will be able to give guidance on the risks associated with an area, and help employers to make informed decisions on what support is required.   

Dennis added: “Support for employees abroad is not something that a company can take short cuts on, neither is it something that should be undertaken without advice. It is a very specialist area. Hopefully, employees and their employers will never have to rely on evacuation or repatriation services, whether for medical or security reasons. It is vital, however, that both are in place in case it is needed, and that the extent of the support is fully understood.”

Employers have big role to play when it comes to tackling NHS backlog

The impact of the continuing Covid pandemic means that health and wellbeing support in 2022 will be hugely influenced by factors outside of the work environment. Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection makes his predictions for the coming year and explains how employers will play a crucial role…

The impact of missed cancer diagnoses will be seen
With an estimated 50,000 ‘missed’ cancer diagnoses1, health services, businesses and employees will be impacted as previously undetected cases come to the fore. It will be essential for employers to support people with increased screening, treatment and rehabilitation.

State provision will be limited
NHS waiting lists will continue to grow while hospitals battle the backlog of operations and procedures that were cancelled during the pandemic. By the end of the year, NHS waiting lists are likely to exceed 8 million2.

Prevention will prevail 
There will be a rise in employees and their employers looking for support for preventative health and wellbeing solutions. A more holistic approach will be taken. More companies will offer apps to improve education around nutrition and fitness. Help will be made available with smoking cessation and alcohol management, as well as screening services being offered for early diagnosis and treatment.

Enhanced communication will be required 
Communication of benefits will need to ramp up. Employers will need to clearly and effectively communicate the advantages of lifestyle changes and the benefits of regular health screenings. They will have to find new ways to communicate messages to engage with the hybrid workforce of today and tomorrow.

The rise of digital will continue
Health and wellbeing support will be accessed more online. As has been seen with virtual GP services and the emergence of benefits portals and health apps, more companies will adopt this method for more of their benefits.

Health and wellbeing support will be crucial to recruitment
Employee expectations of what an employer should provide have changed as a result of the pandemic, and comprehensive, engaging health and wellbeing programmes will become increasingly important in attracting and retaining talent.

Greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion 
Employee benefits will need to support a culture of diversity and inclusion. Companies will need help in selecting the right benefits programmes to ensure they are inclusive and to help with recruiting and retaining a wide demographic of employees.

Employees will need to increasingly turn to their employers for health and wellbeing support in 2022, due to the limitations of state provision while the country recovers from the impact of Covid. The good news is that comprehensive support is available and that relatively simple options, like cancer screening, are extremely cost effective and can have a hugely positive impact.

Counselling needs spike 145% as lockdown eases

Employers may think that the easing of lockdown will result in an improvement in mental health, but figures released by Towergate Health & Protection suggest that employees may be in greater need of support than ever.

Figures from one of firm’s leading employee assistance programme (EAP) providers show a pronounced increase in utilisation as lockdown eases, compared with figures from the first and most strict lockdown. During March 2021, counselling calls increased by 145% over the figures from March 2020, with numbers exceeding the peak previously seen in July 2020.

Brett Hill, distribution director for Towergate Health & Protection, said: “It would be understandable for employers to think that the peak time for stress would have been in March 2020, when the country was in the midst of the most severe lockdown. However, the figures show that utilisation of counselling provision has increased significantly as things have begun to open up again. There may be many reasons for this, including the anxiety of returning to work and the stresses of resuming the rush and tumult of everyday life.”

By far the majority of calls for counselling services have been regarding anxiety, followed by low mood, then depression. The increase in service use is evident across both traditional access points via the telephone, and online.

During these uncertain times, EAP support for employees can prove invaluable. Offered as an integral part of many existing employee benefits, such as income protection and life assurance, or as a standalone, EAPs can offer a great range of employee support. The programme will typically include assessment, short-term counselling and referral services for employees and their immediate family, wherever they are in the world. The provision is intended to help employees deal with personal problems that may adversely affect their health and wellbeing and work performance.

The need for employee support is huge. This leading EAP provider received over 33,000 calls, delivered 23,000 structured therapy sessions and received over 11,000 hits on its online portal in April 2021. Without a programme in place to support employees via EAPs and other wellbeing benefits, employers can be left to pick up the pieces.

EAPs are there for immediate assistance, to provide support when it is needed. They also help employees to build foundations to better manage their own wellbeing, such as with virtual training sessions on topics such as stress management and coping with change. So they can help build mental resilience too, and this can not only support the mental health of each individual but of those around them too.

Hill continued: “As a population, we have had to cope with a great deal over the last year or so. It should perhaps not be surprising that this has had a knock-on effect. We have been conditioned to become socially distant, and the return to busy offices, a hectic commute, and a gear-change in life in general are all likely to bring with them stress and anxiety. The good news is, there’s a lot that employers can do to make sure these problems do not escalate and affect working life. Support is available and employers should make use of it to ensure the wellbeing of their workforce.”